Celebrating Black Voices

Today marks the first day of Black History Month 2022 and I am happy to be back to share with you how we plan to elevate Black Voices and introduce you to elements of Black culture.

SJPL's Celebration of Black Voices

Last year I celebrated by sharing 30 days worth of Black History. While I will be unable to do that again this year, I do plan to share with you each week some element of Black life and events that celebrate Blackness. This year's events will include storytimes that highlight Black characters, Black entertainers, highlights of Black art and I have also convinced my 100+ year old grandmother to share a story of her childhood telling a first-hand account of what it is like to experience what many of us would consider Black History.

Where We Find Ourselves in 2022

This Black History Month we find ourselves still in the pandemic and trying to combat the battle fatigue from both the virus and the social changes we sought to make as a nation spurred from the protests of the summer of 2020. Like many of you, I have seen the progress that has been made. Juneteenth will officially be celebrated this year in many more cities. While there have been pushes to be more inclusive in many of our institutions we still face upcoming battles. Yet I am hopeful of change. We are having deeper conversations on issues in American public policy on issues of race. However, the work that many fought and died for for decades is still not fully realized as we must as a nation, state, city, community and as individuals continue to challenge and fight against the deeply rooted ways race has always woven it's way into every aspect of our lives even when we were not aware of it.

Hope for a Black Future

However I don't want to end today's blog on a low note. Yes we have work to do still. Don't be discouraged. Like when you start a new diet on a plan to loose weight we are often reminded we didn't get all the weight overnight so we will be unable to loose it all overnight. We need to view racial discrimination with the same lens. We will not be able to solve every injustice overnight and yes it will take lifetimes to right the wrongs. We also know how the pendulum of American politics can swing violently in one direction or another. Nevertheless, we must remember that everyday we can do something to fight discrimination by making sure that race is not something we ignore but is put in the front of our minds as we make decisions on where we live, what we learn, who we hire, what events we support and the friends we make.

The First Challenge for BHM 2022

I am an educator at heart so I would not feel right without issuing some homework to start this Black History Month. I challenge you to keep learning this month - dive deeper into the things I share and reflect. So to start off this month, I want you to think about your own history these last two years. Grab a pen and piece of paper or talk with a friend about your own journey into anti-racism work. Ask yourself the following:

  • What have I done in the last two years that championed racial inclusion?
  • Have I made a real friend outside of my racial comfort zone and if you have not what has been the barrier? Have you learned not only about their struggles but their joys?
  • What does Black History mean to me? How have you incorporated that into your life?
  • What do I need to learn more about to be able to do anti-racist work?
  • How have you grown and what areas have you not grown in your journey to better understand race?

I don't have the answers for you as they will be unique to your life but I encourage you today this is where your work this Black History Month should start. Reflect and journal your journey. Seek out new voices and re-read old ones. I challenge you to look inward this month and evaluate who you are. Some of you may be happy with what you uncover, or you may realize that perhaps you have lost steam, you got distracted along the way or you don't like what you see. There is no right or wrong answers here but it is important we do these gut checks because it helps us think about the future and that is the goal to create a future for kids of all creeds, colors, ethnicities and backgrounds that allows them to thrive.

So let's start this journey into Black History Month with hope and a commitment to continuing to do the work to build more equitable communities for everyone. Happy Black Future Month. Let's get started.