Every February, Black History Month brings an everyday reality to light and life: African American contributions to our culture, our nation and our world have often been overlooked, unrecognized and, at times, unappreciated.
Black History Month highlights the determination to live and rise above the seemingly insurmountable structures and conditions faced on American soil. This month-long celebration grew out of “Negro History Week,” as the noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans sought to acknowledge the role African Americans have played in shaping history.
It’s a time and a moment to recall our history, recognize the present contributions and anticipate a future where every life – every child of God – is not only appreciated but celebrated.
Yes, Black History Month recounts specific moments, achievements and milestones, but it also presents an opportunity to recall a witness of faith that has provided countless people the strength to “see a way out of no way.” African Americans have faced trials that were believed to be impossible, insurmountable, unbelievable and intolerable.
And yet …
Despite odds that would have predicted or prescribed a dismal path ahead, African Americans have been able to give witness to one of the greatest leaps of human spirit through the power of faith. Circumstances could not limit or define the future possibilities; the essence of the Gospel was embraced by faith, and it transformed the hearing of the Good News into the doing of great works.
Together, let us celebrate the witness of faith. That same faith has helped us wrestle with the meanings of freedom, truth and community. That same faith helped us answer the question: who is my neighbor? Together, we honor the lives and contributions of those known and unknown who have contributed to the strengthening and shaping of our faith.
When we honor and celebrate Black History, we promote and nurture ongoing dialogue. By honoring and recognizing excellence and triumph, we have a chance to dialogue with others. That encounter has the power to engage and touch our souls. Knowing our history, and knowing the role of faith, can help us uplift the souls present and the souls to come.
Together, let us set about the work of being and building beloved community. This month and every month, we invite everyone to to heed the words of one of the cherished Spirituals: “Walk together children. Don’t you get weary. Walk together children. Don’t you get weary. Oh, talk together children. Don’t you get weary. There’s a great camp meeting in the promised land.”
The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr.
Canon Missioner, Washington National Cathedral