On Culture Day, Let’s Recognize that Black History is International


Zoe MacDiarmid

Beruktawit Gebreamlak (left) and Ruth Ayele (right) representing Ethiopia on Culture Day.

Every spring, Wilde Lake holds Culture Day, a day to recognize the cultures represented at our school. 

As we celebrate the diversity of our school, let’s continue to recognize the importance of representation on young minds, especially in the United States, where appreciating other cultures is not prioritized.

Traditionally, the focus has been on American culture. Because of this, the narrative of our country is close-minded. 

Representation of Black History has drastically increased over the last several decades. Yet, a large portion of Black culture seems to continually be underrepresented, even during Black History Month.

Black History Month began when Carter G. Woodson — a historian — and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History announced Negro History Week in 1925. His goal was to raise awareness of the contributions of African Americans to civilization, according to The Library of Congress.

Despite this, when February rolls around, there are groups of people who are overlooked. Americans like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and Harriett Tubman are given the spotlight. But do we ever hear about people like Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Yaa Asentewaa, or Esteban Hotesse?

Every Black History Month, the focus is on well-known Black American figures, but we rarely highlight the people abroad who have had just as much of an impact on Black success.

As someone with parents who emigrated from Haiti and Ghana to the United States, I noticed from a young age that our country tends to focus solely on American culture during the month. Every year, I heard stories of Civil Rights leaders like MLK and Rosa Parks, who deserve their recognition. But in general, we fail to widen our lens so children like me can hear the stories of the heroes who originated in their countries.

As we push for representation in the United States, we must understand that it should apply to all groups of people. We must highlight all kinds of Black people, including Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latinos, and Africans who paved the way for us.

There are so many foreign historical figures who have impacted Black culture, like Shadd Cary, who was the first woman publisher in Canada, and the first Black woman to attend law school in the United States. Or Hotesse, the only known Dominican in the Tuskegee Airmen — the Black pilots of the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.

So, this Culture Day, we need to acknowledge the Black trailblazers both in the United States and around the world who have left their mark, which allowed generations after them to make progress. 

Let’s tell everyone’s story.