With the New Year’s Eve Champagne barely behind us, 2018 unfolds full of promise and challenge. One of my resolutions is to be a better student of history, to learn more about the contributions of the many groups which have created this nation, especially those groups which have often been overlooked.
In February, we celebrate Black History Month. Regardless of race, every American should know about and have the opportunity to be inspired by the struggles and the accomplishments of Fannie Lou Hamer and Barbara Jordan. In March, Women’s History Month provides a perfect moment to say thanks to folks as diverse as Billie Jean King, Michelle Obama, and Amelia Earhart.
May brings us Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, a chance to reflect on Queen Liliuokalani, the first queen and last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Also in May, Jewish American Heritage Month reminds us of the struggles and accomplishments of Elie Wiesel who survived the Holocaust to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
National Hispanic Heritage Month spans two months, from September 15 to October 15. With immigration and citizenship reasserting themselves as civil rights issues and this nation’s Hispanic-Latino population growing quickly and expanding itself geographically, I am sure the lessons of labor movement leader and civil rights icon Cesar Chavez have never been more relevant.
Also in October, I will think about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered History Month. On a more personal note, I will remember Brenda and Wanda Hinson who bravely started Camp Sister Spirit, a women’s retreat, in Ovett, Mississippi, when I was a teenager living nearby. Against horrific prejudice and with considerable threats to their safety and assaults on their dignity, these women lived their lives without apology, and I hope the decades which have followed have brought more understanding.
In November, I will remember my Grandma Creel and celebrate her Cherokee heritage as part of Native American Indian Heritage Month. Debatably no group has been more poorly treated or more overlooked than American Indians, as recent events at Standing Rock remind us.
I am a learner, not an historian or a scholar, so no doubt I have overlooked the contributions of many important groups. This was not intended to be an all-inclusive list, but simply an invitation to join me in learning about the contributions of Americans from Appalachia to the Pacific Northwest and the Canadian border of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. What better time than the New Year?
Whether you identify with any of the groups mentioned or with others, knowing and celebrating the diverse history of America does not cheapen or threaten your own narrative or your own heritage. We are called one people when really we are many people who have made a conscious decision to unite as one nation.
History, when told honestly, can provide a point of more common understanding for moving forward together. It seems to me that can only be a good thing.
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