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Black History Month inspires togetherness

Three headshots combined into one photo collage.
Musician and scholar Davu Seru, actor and director Sha Cage, and Carlos Moreno, co-executive director of Big Picture Learning.

Black History Month is an annual celebration of the accomplishments of Black Americans. The annual observance has taken place since 1976, and is a time to center the Black experience and voice. 

This month we’re asking Black thought leaders “What does Black History Month mean to you?” For several of them, the answer is “togetherness.”

Co-Executive Director of Big Picture Learning Carlos Moreno says growing up as an Afro Latino man, he realized that there are prominent intersections between the two cultures. He says learning about other cultures can be a great tool to explore the ways in which we are connected, and then disconnected, to begin bridging those gaps. 

“In the Bronx, where diversity thrives, I am reminded daily of the importance of embracing and learning from the diverse stories that collectively weave the fabric of our shared American experience. I witness the dynamic interplay of cultures, each contributing to the rich mosaic that defines our shared history,” said Moreno. “As an Afro-Latino, I recognize the intertwined threads of African and Latino heritage, exemplifying the interconnectedness of our narratives. Black History, to me, is a celebration of resilience, courage, and the relentless pursuit of justice against historical adversities.” 

Moreno says it is not just a month of remembrance, but a continuous journey of acknowledging, honoring, and amplifying the contributions of Black individuals who have shaped and continue to shape the narrative of our nation.

Actor and director Sha Cage agrees. 

“Black History month to me means centering the full lusciousness of Blackness, which can be hard for others and ourselves sometimes,” she reflected. “It means not just riding on the ‘Wu ha’ of those who’ve touched the bottom of the oceans floor but invoking their brilliance, their guidance, the gifts that you are undoubtedly sure opened countless doors for us. Black History Month means a heightened commitment to teaching the babies about what was and what can be. To dream in the boundlessness of BLACK. In affirmation. In meditation. In reflection. In transformative resonance.”

While shaping the narrative of Black significance is a part of the reclamation process for the Black community – especially during the month of February, musician and scholar Davu Seru says it is important to recognize that the heightened awareness around Black narratives this time of year is not always acknowledged with the benefit of this reclamation in mind. 

“Black History Month can be co-opted by curious bystanders and, worse yet, people who live to profit off of other people's laboring imaginations. And, so, we Black people should protect it as best we can by performing and recording it ourselves,” said Seru.

For Seru, Black History Month evokes strong feelings.

“I have a picture hanging in my home that was taken by Black photographer Charles Chamblis, which features a group shot of the Elks Drum and Bugle Corp during the first month-long celebration of Black History in Minnesota. It's 1976 and it captures many members of my family, including my mother and father,” said Seru. “For much of my life, it was the only photograph that I had seen that had both my mother and father in it.” 

Seru, who is the Curator of the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota, spends a lot of time reading through the archives of the Black experience. Seru says that the Black story has always held themes of collective action. He says he hopes Black History Month continues to inspire relationship building, which he sees as wealth building.

“We've been taught about being individuals… [but] much of this life is about the group. While mining the characters, settings, situations and themes that link us...we are given a chance to routinely go back and get what this life makes it easy to forget. We get a chance to determine the plot of our future. Like we are preparing to welcome ourselves back to/from somewhere.”


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