Black History Month is a time for us to celebrate the achievements and history of those of African heritage. It is a time for us to honor their contributions to the vibrant tapestry of American art, knowledge, culture, and society. It is a time for us to remember the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. As we celebrate, honor, and remember, we must acknowledge the diversity of backgrounds of blackness in America – from those born in American to refugees and immigrants who have found home in America.
This year’s theme for Black History Month is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. The theme invites us to reflect on both nuclear families and the broader Black community. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History says of the Black family that “Not only are individual black families diasporic, but Africa and the diaspora itself have been long portrayed as the black family at large.”
Reflections on the representation, identity, and diversity of the Black family are incomplete without acknowledging the history of forced displacement from their homes and the separation of families. The Africa diaspora has roots in the Atlantic slave trade, which displaced individuals, families, and entire communities. This theme is particularly relevant to immigrants and refugees, many for whom this history is a lived and present reality.
The tragedy of African families being torn apart is not just a matter for the history books. Today, families in Africa are separated as they flee violence, torture, and genocide. We play a part in the health, safety, and future of Black families by examining national immigration laws and the conditions of refugee resettlement to ensure there are no unnecessary barriers to reuniting families. Celebrating Black History means striving for future in which families are never again torn apart.
Black History Month is about more than celebrating, honoring, and remembering. It is a time to ask ourselves how far we still have to go until every family is reunited and has the opportunity to thrive in safety and freedom.