Many Africans will tell you they had never heard of Black History Month before seeing the hashtag trending on social media or watching made-in-America documentaries.
In my case, I learned about Black History Month when I arrived in Canada a few moons ago😉.
My initial thought was "how wonderful is it that we celebrate Black people's contributions to science, politics, sports and entertainment!". Quickly, however, I started asking myself "why?". Why do people feel there is a need to highlight these specific individuals during a given month? Why do non-Black people feel compelled to shout from the rooftops their fascination with these historical figures? Why is this not observed across the globe? Why February?
As the years went on, I found the tough answers to my questions and to put it simply: celebrating Black History Month is undeniably still relevant and needed in most western countries. The inequality, injustice and discrimination is remains too real in 2021 and it is painful too painful to bear.
If the #blacklivesmatter movement taught us anything it's that when you study, value and respect your history nothing can stop you from working towards a better future.
I have always been eager to learn about the many black North American historical figures like abolitionist Harriet Tubman, former slave and later cowboy in Alberta John Ware, Canadian politician Jean Augustine, the first Black female Member of Parliament and Cabinet minister and the late great american actress and pioneer Cicely Tyson.
By the same token, on this year’s #blackhistorymonth I would like to put a spotlight on some trailblazing African natives who have or continue to make history:
- Fatoumata Binta Diallo, also know as Binta Pilote, Guinean flight colonel and first female Black African helicopter pilot
- Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegalese poet, activist and one of the architects of the philosophy of négritude.
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's Iron Lady, the first elected female head of state in Africa
- Cheick Modibo Diarra, Malian astrophysicist, NASA mechanical engineer and former chairman of Microsoft Africa
- Dr Margaret Mungherera, Ugandan psychiatrist and the first female president of the World Medical Association
- George Weah, first and only native African to this day, to win the coveted soccer title of Ballon d'Or and current president of Liberia
- Captain Thomas Sankara, Burkinabe military officer and fervent pan-Africanist, often referred to as Africa's Che Guevara
Finally, look around you, celebrate your black family members, friends, and coworkers who, despite living in a world that is particularly harder to them, are powering through and making history as we speak by breaking glass ceilings and shutting down stereotypes on a daily basis.