How Celebrating Black History Month Unites Us
I’ve been reading with interest a lively debate on Facebook that started when an organization posted the graphic “Celebrating Black History Month.” Like many social media engagements, it’s a lot of talking at each other instead of to each other but I have been thinking about the question itself – is it ultimately divisive to celebrate Black History Month?
It was important to me to answer that question because Brooksville Main Street was launching our new round of pole banners for Black History Month which honor the accomplishments and lives of local men and women. From Lizzie Carr Washington, who delivered countless babies of all races in her lifetime to Mayor Frankie Burnett who modeled we can “disagree without being disagreeable” to Civil Rights leader Paul Douglas, we have chosen to highlight the stories of 13 Brooksvillians. Their stories are incredibly diverse and all super cool.
We celebrate people’s birthdays; we celebrate Mother’s Day; we celebrate Veterans Day; we celebrate wedding anniversaries. I’ve never heard anyone call those celebrations divisive. I look at Black History Month the same way. It’s an opportunity to turn our attention in one direction to let them know we think they are amazing and we are glad they are part of our community. Just like celebrating my child’s birthday does not mean I don’t value my other children or honoring my mom on Mother’s Day doesn’t mean I don’t care about my dad, celebrating Black History shouldn’t indicate we don’t value the contributions of others.
And let’s be honest. Many of these stories have not been told. I remember the first time I went to find information about Brooksville’s (and possibly Florida’s) first female mayor, Lena Hawkins. I opened the Hernando County history book published for the bicentennial and found she wasn’t mentioned. The book is as big as a Bible, with an extensive index, and it doesn’t include Lena or any other women. That realization inspired our Women Leading the Way posters in 2020, giving us a chance to honor their extraordinary contributions to Brooksville life.
Celebrating Black History Month doesn’t mean we stop telling the stories of others whose lives are well documented in our history books. It just means adding to them and enriching our understanding of the community we love so dearly.
As you check out the banners, make sure to use the QR codes (going in the week of Feb. 5) found on the base of the lampposts. That will take you to TourBVL.com where you’ll find short bios of the person featured on the banner. It’s an ever growing database of amazing people that have chosen Brooksville for their home. Developing that site takes a lot of work, so if you’d like to assist, reach out to Andrea Read, our brilliant lead on this project.
There is such a spirit of unity in Brooksville right now and I think this new project can help fortify it.
Onward & Upward!
Natalie Kahler, Brooksville Main Street Executive Director