Black History Month: A Celebration of Empowerment

Written by Stephanie

February 23, 2023

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Wow, who have thought that? You’d think that writing would come easy for writers, right? Apparently not. After all, those were the words of Thomas Mann, the German novelist and short story writer who won the 1929 Nobel Prize for Literature. Mann should know a thing or two about writing!


Nevertheless, there is something almost magic about turning words and sentences into great stories. That is why we at Yip are so excited about having a best-selling author, Will Storr, as a guest on our platform. Storr’s webinar on Storytelling will be on Yip in March 2023, with about 300 seats available.


Let’s explore some of the reasons why you might consider attending this webinar, as well as maybe becoming a writer yourself.

The Origins of Black History Month

Black History Month is also known as African American History Month and was the brainchild of noted Black historian Carter G. Woodson. Its origins date back to September, 1915. At that time, a full half-century may have passed since slavery was abolished in the United States, but racism was still a scourge of the nation.


Woodson and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) that year, with the aim of boosting the profile of Black achievements in American society. They first sponsored a national Negro History Week in 1926. However, it would be 50 years before President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976. 

Black History Month Is Not Only American

However, don’t assume for a moment that Black History Month is solely observed in America. Canada, for example, also celebrates Black History Month every February. Statistics Canada reported in 2021 that 1.5 million people in the country reported themselves as being Black. Amazingly, the Canadian census found that there were  more than 300 different ethnic or cultural origins among Black Canadians. There’s that awesome diversity again!


In the UK, Black History Month takes place each October. The month revels in the achievements and contributions of Black people in both the UK and worldwide. But it also galvanizes action against racism in British society and helps reclaim Black history to its rightful place. Brazil, itself a country with a huge and proud Black population, has its own Black Consciousness Day every November 20th.

Appropriation of Black Culture Online Is Real

You might never have realized it, but racism and appropriation of black culture, including culture and even popular ‘memes,’ is a very real thing online. How so? One example is the proliferation of black-focused GIFs as memes, i.e. those short clips a few seconds long that are everywhere online, such as on TikTok, Instagram and Youtube. They’re harmless enough, right?


Well, have you ever noticed how often the especially ‘exaggerated reaction’ ones feature Black celebrities or ordinary people? They often seem to pander to some racial stereotype. Some Black writers have dubbed them an example of subtle-yet-still-racist ‘digital blackface’. That also includes non-Black kids who appropriate Black culture, music and slang as their own on social media platforms such as TikTok. Yikes.


It gets worse, unfortunately: a University of Pittsburgh study in 2020 found that half of the 602 Black adolescents surveyed had suffered from overt racism online. And that was in just a nine-month period!

Validating the Black Experience

So, how can each one of us contribute positively to Black History Month, even if we’re not ourselves black? It’s a tough question, but here are some possible suggestions:

  • Recognize the historical reasons why Black people have been given this recognition;
  • Acknowledge Black accomplishments throughout the month of February, in everything from the arts and literature, to science, sports and social change; and
  • Take time to reflect on the ongoing racism, both overt and subtle, that Black people and all people of colour have to endure all over the world.


It’s also important to remember that Black achievements and history should be honoured throughout the year, not only February. The actor Morgan Freeman made this point in a roundabout way during his much-publicized and quite controversial interview in 2005 with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes when he aired his thoughts about Black History month.

Celebrating Differences

Black History Month goes beyond highlighting the culture, achievements and history of Black people. The month also teaches us to celebrate the one thing that makes humanity so special: its diversity. It’s also about acknowledging our differences and even celebrating them. And why not!


Consider this: we are even different online. How so? Well, did you know that the way we do internet searches differs quite dramatically according to our nationality and race? Experts in search engine optimisation (SEO) have realized that people around the world search the internet in quite different ways. For example, people from ‘individualistic’ societies, such as North America and Europe, make searches online that have a different focus to those from more ‘communal’ and family-oriented societies, such as those in Africa or Asia.


“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” Those were the profound words of Thurgood Marshall, who in 1967 became the first Black American justice on the United States Supreme Court. Black History Month is indeed fundamentally about recognizing the humanity of those who identify as Black. We can all be a part of that.


Ultimately, it’s about respect. It’s also about letting go of prejudices and just letting people be who they are, irrespective of ‘barriers’ such as race. As the French so rightly put it: ‘Vive la difference!’


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