Since 1976, the United States has designated the month of February as Black History month, a time to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans and those of African descent throughout World History.
The annual celebration grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson, who designed the week-long celebration to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and civil rights activist Fredrick Douglass.
Celebrating culture and the strengths and testimonies of a people is a Kingdom value, demonstrated repeatedly throughout scripture. Revelation 7:9 shows us people from every nation, tribe, and tongue worshipping before the Lamb. The numerous feasts given by God to the children of Israel (the feasts of Trumpets, Pentecost, and Passover) are times of celebration and reflection of the testimony between a people and their God.
Honoring the cultural strengths of African Americans allows us to see, hear, and understand their faith journey and unique place within Kingdom work. Whether it’s the pioneering missionary work of George Liele and Betsey Stockton, black inventors such as Elijah McCoy or Madame C.J. Walker, or even Black medical doctors like Dr. Aaron M. McMillian and Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, African Americans have influenced and built a legacy of service throughout all sectors of industry.
Our unique cultural identity reflects the strength and sensitivity of a kind and loving Father redeeming his children from oppression into amazing grace. Our story of building entire societies in Africa to experiencing the betrayal of our brothers selling us into slavery in a foreign land did not stop the plan of an all-wise Father and his power to bring us into a place of influence and prominence amidst adversity.
Our story is one of tragedy and triumph, and through it all, African Americans have remained benevolent, hospitable, and faithful. We have held to the teachings of our elders, “help who you can,” “treat everybody right,” and “trust in the Lord and lean not to your own understanding.” We haven’t always understood our suffering nor been recognized for our strengths, but like Noah, we have found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8).
The beautiful benefit of history and culture is that we get to share it with others.
You don’t have to be African American to celebrate and engage in Black History Month. Challenge yourself to learn a few new names, songs, and dishes centered in African American traditions. Visit our churches and see the benevolent work being done in our communities through local houses of worship. Attend our family gatherings and experience that down-home feeling of being completely socially accepted even though we just met you.
And when you get a chance, listen to the stories of our elders and how God has been faithful. “Down through the years, God has been good to me,” many will tell you. It’s a history filled with tragedy and triumph, but our story is God’s testimony!
Happy Black History Month,
Pastor Adrian Reeves
National African American Missions Council