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OUR VOICES: Making Black History Month Truly Meaningful

By Dr. John E. Warren

“The act of meaning ful engagement with our history must be year-round and based on a commitment to who we are collectively and how much we care for our own heritage.”

Dr. John E. Warren

It’s not enough that Black History Month is the shortest month in the year; or that many capitalize on it with lip service and faint recognition. By this we mean the commercialization of “Black History Month” by some while others are attempting to erase us by banning books that speak to our history and struggle.

When we personally stop and reflect or read the accounts of what people like James Weldon Johnson and his brother did in writing the “Negro National Anthem” over 123 years ago; when we consider that this was done in the midst of a segregated society with much open race hatred, it’s a testimony to the personal and family commitment to a people that you not only identify with, but are proud of.

To make Black History meaningful to us individually and to our people, we must first get reacquainted with our history. For example, it is embarrassing to be in a Black History program calling for the singing of “Lift Every Voice & Sing” (the Negro National Anthem) and watch people struggle to sing one verse or fumble while looking for the words in a program. The act of meaningful engagement with our history must be year-round and based on a commitment to who we are collectively and how much we care for our own heritage.


Let’s start by learning the words to the song and studying the meaning for what it tells us about those who came before us. Let’s be able to sing the song from our hearts just as the people of South Africa do with their national anthem. Because the South African people care and identify with their song, we can feel the depth of their emotions.

When we re-enter that space for ourselves, we will no longer have to be concerned about what others do or say about us. The words to the song will re-kindle our desire to revisit what our ancestors have done both for us and this nation. Let’s make Black History everyday, as some of us, like this paper, already work at.

Dr. John E. Warren is publisher of The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint.

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