Black History Month should be just part of diversity celebrated in Clayton
CLAYTON, CA—While February is our shortest month, much happens.
This year, National Freedom Day, Groundhog Day, Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and Black History Month all take place in February.
I asked new Clayton Councilmember Holly Tillman to write this month’s column and give us some history and background on Black History Month and why it is now officially recognized in Clayton.
“Thank you, Mayor Wolfe, for the opportunity to write about what we now celebrate as Black History Month. It was originally celebrated as Negro History Week in 1926. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian, wanted to raise awareness of the contributions and achievements that African Americans made to civilization.
Per africanamericanhistorymonth.gov, the event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Soon Black History Clubs formed, teachers demanded materials to instruct their students, and progressive whites, scholars and philanthropists supported and endorsed the effort.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford expanded the celebration throughout the entire month of February. Since then, every American president has issued African American History Month proclamations.
In addition, numerous organizations and individuals celebrate the month by highlighting important achievements made by African Americans, both famous and those not well-known. Most students learn about Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but know very little about Shirley Chisholm, Claudette Colvin, Bessie Coleman, Marsha P. Johnson, Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and Dr. Charles R. Drew.
If you use a clothes dryer, ironing board, touchtone telephone, baby stroller, lawn sprinkler, golf tee, folding chair, automatic gear shift or stopped at a traffic light, you can thank a Black inventor. The trailblazers and innovators are too numerous to list.
At our Jan. 19 City Council meeting, I was proud to sponsor a proclamation declaring February 2021 as Black and African American History Month in Clayton. Another East Bay advocate approached me to collaborate on diversity, equity and inclusion, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Her words resonated with me when she wrote: “While city proclamations alone aren’t enough, I believe they are one of several small steps our cities need to start taking toward truly being welcoming and inclusive.”
I was surprised to learn that prior to Pride and Hispanic Heritage months receiving proclamations in 2020, Clayton had never recognized significant days or cultural heritage month. America is a melting pot and Clayton reflects that, which is why I requested that the council discuss recognizing other cultural heritage months and significant days throughout 2021 via proclamation.”
Thank you, Holly.
For more information on Black History Month, visit africanamericanhistorymonth.gov, history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-facts or familysearch.org/blog/en/why-we-celebrate-black-history-month/.
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