Black Future Month: Why We Must Celebrate Herstory in the Making

by Kinsey Clarke

February is Black History Month, which means much of the African Diaspora within the U.S. is reflecting on and celebrating the legacies of those Black people who have come before us and shaped the path for our progress and success. This year, The Huffington Post’s Black Voices partnered with community leaders and organizers in the #BlackLivesMatter movement to produce Black Future Month, an editorial series to celebrate the people, ideas, actions, and social/cultural movements happening now, that are shaping the lives and futures of Black people worldwide.

As Opal Tometi, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, writes in her inaugural post for the series, “Black Future Month: Examining The Current State Of Black Lives And Envisioning Where We Go From Here”:
As a community organizer who holds a degree in History, I understand the fascination with history. However, there is a tendency for many of us to get engrossed in the recounting of our history, which often amounts to purely intellectual activity without material action. In a day and age where every 28 hours a Black person is being killed with impunity, unemployment in Black communities is 12% and Blacks make up 40% of the imprisoned population, we can’t afford to solely commemorate the past. We must seize the opportunity to change the course of history by shaping our future.
Black Future Month is so necessary, as it recognizes that Black history is always in the process of being made. Black Future Month is especially relevant to Black women, as Black History Month tends to focus almost predominantly on the accomplishments of black men. However, it is important that when we discuss the future of Black people in America—and across the globe—that we are inclusive of all members of the Black community. So much of the work towards progress, justice, and innovation being right now involves women, genderqueer, trans*, and other Black folks who do not identify as heterosexual, cisgender males. This is evident in the #BlackLivesMatters movement, whose two other co-founders—Alicia Garza and Patrice Cullors, along with Tometi—are women.
Black history also tends to focus on the achievements of older individuals, at times focusing on the “respectability” that comes with age, traditional notions of success, and distinction. However, this erases the impact that young leaders can have on influencing culture and society through their passion, creativity, and unique insights. Indeed, black millennials and youth are also at the forefront of making their voices and demands heard against a system of brutality and dehumanization by using social media, technology, and other digital platforms to assert their power and worth.

Black Future Month is the response of a generation that does not seek to have a single leader speaking for a movement. Instead, it places all voices and experiences at the center, making us all active participants in shaping the present and future, while honoring and learning from our history. We are breaking away from tradition in order to find the right fit for us. We lift up the multitudes of black women who are at the forefront of dismantling the oppressive systems that were created to hold us back. We celebrate the young folks who inspire us and are acting as catalysts to motivate their communities, while they carve out space for themselves in a society that aims to render them voiceless and invisible. We applaud our leaders and game-changers in all aspects of Black live and culture: sports, media, entertainment, the arts, academia, activism, and politics. We make it clear that we love our Serena Williams, Mo’Ne Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, Gabourey Sidibe, Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay, Michelle Obama, and the countless other women making change happen and making known the radical brilliance and beauty of Black womanhood. We are calling out the issues that matter: reproductive justice; economic justice and community sustainability; education reform (from primary through college); access to quality health care; eliminating domestic and sexual violence; and so many more.

By celebrating Black Future Month in tandem with Black History Month, we are paying our respects to the past while building what we want to see come forth. Focusing on the future of Black Excellence does not mean we are disregarding all those who came before us. It means we’re carrying on their work and honoring their legacies in the best possible way: by writing tomorrow’s history.

Photo: Rena Schild / Shutterstock

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time. You can follow her personal Twitter account here.

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