- February 19, 2013
Post submitted by Je-Shawna Wholley of the National Black Justice Coalition, guest contributor
Black History Month has always left me with feelings of dissonance and unease. On one hand, I appreciate the focus on commemoration and celebration of African American heritage. After all, it is during this month that the nation makes an intentional effort to honor those that have forged the way for equality and justice. Like clockwork, we can count on mainstream television, activist groups and corporations to insert that black or brown face throughout their commercials, print media ads and blog posts all in an effort to “honor” the history, triumphs and accomplishments of Black America. This year I would like to see a more inclusive strategy that acknowledges the poignant fact that Black history is still American history.
The connection that I have to my history is within me every day that I wake up. I celebrate the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as honor the ground work of Bayard Rustin, Barbara Jordan and Marsha P. Johnson each time I report to work at the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization. So, if I had to articulate what makes this year’s Black History Month special to me, I would say that this year I have the opportunity to fight for equality for black people for a living. It was through my work with NBJC where I witnessed the efforts to debunk the myth that African Americans are more homophobic than any other race.
Additionally, I was a part of the efforts to showcase that black LGBT youth are philanthropic as we watch more and more black LGBT emerging leaders make an investment in NBJC. In my work, I get to see black LGBT people come together and make history every day; and that is truly an honor.
What I respect most about this organization is that we honor pioneers like Bayard Rustin and Barbara Jordan every chance that we get. Without their work we would not have the opportunity to live as openly and authentically as we do. So, as I am happy to see that there is an effort to ensure that we take a moment to honor the rich contributions of African Americans in this nation, I challenge my fellow brothers, sisters and allies in this movement to acknowledge that black history is and will always be American history, too. Let us choose today to celebrate this nation and all of her glory all year round.
Je-Shawna C. Wholley is a rising star and the Programs and Outreach Associate at NBJC. She is also an active member of the organization’s Leadership Advisory Council, providing strategic insight on outreach and issues affecting Black LGBT young people. A recent graduate of Spelman College, Wholley served as President of the LGBT student union, Afrekete, for two years and was credited with numerous accomplishments during her tenure.
This February we honor those who have paved a way for us all as we continue our work toward justice and equality together.Stay tuned to HRC Blog throughout the month for more from our Black History Month blog series, featuring a cadre of African-American LGBT leaders.