I’m really thankful that, on campus, we are not relegating Black History — or anybody else’s history — to one office, one person or one group. Hearing about activities that are happening with different dorms is really helpful, and I see that many different people and groups are engaged.
Also, what comes to mind are events like the Civil Rights Bus Tour for the faculty and staff, the students going to the first Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio, the celebration event for “Women of the Movement” and the events that happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. These are all part of a larger narrative which says: We’re aware and purposing to be engaged! In addition to participating in these events, I’d also like to encourage us to reframe the events and activities in our minds.
In order to begin thinking through this reframing, I’d like to give you a thought from inside a Black mind. I’m an older Black man, and one of the thoughts that keeps going around in my mind is: “Hey, I’m not sure that I want to study history as much as I want to make it. I’d like to make history.”
Focusing solely on my Black mind isn’t the appropriate way for you to think about me. I’m Greg. And Greg is made up of all these different parts, being a Christian most importantly. All of these things are part of who I am: walking with Christ, being a husband for over three decades, being a father and being someone who loves a particular football team (which I’ll leave unnamed so I won’t get any hate mail.) All of that is part of who I am, and you have to know that just because the calendar says it’s Black History Month doesn’t make me get super excited.
For me, it’s Black History Month every month.
I’m Black, so this is part of who I am, and I would have to say that it’s really important for me to reframe the way I think about Black History. I’m not saying we should either engage in activities or reframe how we think — I’m saying we should engage both in celebrating events and also reframe how we think. One thing this means is that sometimes I have to think really hard about what I will put on my social media because my social media includes Black history every day.
I’m me every day. I’ve got to do this every day, for all of my life — forever.
So, it’s not like I’m thinking, “Oh yay, it’s Black History Month, let’s figure out what to say now.” I’m a Black man saying something every day. So, that might mean that my social media turns out to be slightly disappointing to you.
Another part of the reframing process is that I think there is a moment where it is too easy to judge people based on whether or not they have the right post on social media, or whether I see someone reading the book that I think they ought to be reading.
I think what advances Black history, or what advances understanding of the Black narrative, particularly in America today, is our ability to be able to live out that narrative 365 days a year. If I need to have a day, or month, for you to remember the value of this, then it seems to fall a little short in the world that we live in today. I would say, we need much more than that now, and advancing the efforts for underserved groups like my own will require much more than what 28 days and a couple of holidays could provide.
I think what we really need to do is think about this: How can we live with our brothers and sisters in mind who are different than us, whatever that might mean, at all times?
There’s this idea that we’re just going to spend a couple days thinking about Black history, and then we’re waiting for next month so we can get to the next event, whether it’s Asian history, or maybe it’s St. Patrick’s Day and we’re going to think about Irish history. I appreciate that, but if that’s going to be the measure of how much I love someone, or someone loves me, or cares about me, or cares about things that are important to me, if it’s got to be measured within a limited timeframe, I think we’re going to run up short.
So, I would like to just reframe that idea and say this: recognize that the people that we might be celebrating or remembering during this month, or other months, are also people who live 365 days a year and have to think about this conversation on a daily basis.
Related to this topic, in Intercultural Leadership & Church Relations, we’re trying to press hard on two particular pillars of our department.
Pillar no. 2 is “Building on our Strengths,” and so we believe that we should be building on the strengths of both individuals and our organization, Taylor University. We talk about care for Black people as we think about Black history. It’s going to be important to think through this question: How do we build upon strength and character, and the things that are important for people?
Secondly, we press hard on pillar no. 4, which is “Recognizing the Struggles.” This means we realize everybody’s not in the same moment, and everyone’s life has not been in the same moment. This is probably the hardest thing to grasp, that there are people around you who experienced exactly what you experienced but had a very negative outcome because of it.
So, with that in mind, it means engaging in an awareness of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
One final note: maybe you’re looking for a way to dig deeper into this conversation.
Over this next month, you’re going to see notes about something called “Coffee and Color.” This is an opportunity that I’m providing for individuals to be able to come together and talk about Black History. I would love to do that with you, if you’d like to be involved.
But, I do think where we’re at right now is an opportunity to positively reframe the conversation and go much deeper than just a date on the calendar.