Jada Commodore is a sophomore politics major, and a minor in African American studies.
I love being Black, and I celebrate it every day. Although Black History Month is coming to a close, I encourage you not to stop celebrating, because we are extraordinary people with a rich heritage that needs to be known. We should all take every opportunity to enthuse over Black history and support the beautiful, powerful things Black people continue to contribute to American society everyday.
I have not always felt as empowered in my identity, however. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, I never had a Black teacher. I envied how easily my white classmates were able to connect with our white teachers in middle and high school. For years, I was the victim of microaggressions and racism from students and teachers alike, and felt I would never be understood in the way that I needed to be as a Black student. Learning to be confident in my identity was difficult because I had no one to turn to who could understand what I was going through.
Everything changed my junior year, when my school hired an equity and inclusion director named Dr. Daverne Bell, whose mentorship nurtured my spirit after years of not being understood or heard. She taught me so many inspiring and heartbreaking things about Black history, to which I had astonishingly never been exposed. She was a better teacher, mentor, and counselor than anyone I know. I have her to thank for helping me discover who I am; she is Black history, and she is why I celebrate my people.
My people have endured hundreds of years’ of loving a country that never loved them back. The millions of Black people who spent their lives as slaves, and yet still dared to dream, learn, experience joy, and fight in hopes of one day achieving freedom for themselves and future generations they hadn’t met yet — amaze me. I am awestruck by the courage of the Black people in my lineage who sacrificed their lives, because they wanted my life to matter in this country. I am earning a college education so that, in my lifetime, I can inspire the next generation of Black children to achieve greatness, and remind them that their life is priceless.
I celebrate this month all year long because I so deeply love Black people and our culture. I love our music, our flavor, our swag, our energy, and our genius, and I believe that we are worth celebrating. We have so much to thank Black people for in this country. We weren’t always recognized then, but we deserve to be fully recognized now.
While the celebration of Black culture should by no means be limited to one month, a designated Black History Month is warranted because Black people deserve that special time and attention given to our continual work and progress, which went unappreciated for so long.
Each day, I learn more about what it means to be Black and how I want to change my country to be better for the generations to come. In the words of this year’s Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, “There is always light, / if we’re brave enough to see it, / if we’re brave enough to be it.” We can make Black history today, if only we are brave enough to be it.