Why we celebrate

As blacks, we must celebrate our past achievements to create a brighter future.

If they celebrate, many only go through the motions of Black History Month” – so stated the editorial written in The Minnesota Daily on Tuesday, which marked the commencement of celebration of black history. The question lingering in my mind was, who is the “they” being referred too? Surely it cannot be whites, I thought. Whites largely don’t celebrate Black History Month Ö they don’t have to. They feel they don’t have to because they have no stake in what is our contribution to society over the years. They do not feel obligated to recognize these achievements, because it is often of no consequence Ö their success in society and life does not depend on it. So who is the “they”? I hoped within me and with all that I could that the statement did not refer to blacks. It could not Ö could it?

Surely people recognize that while whites might not have to recognize us, we as blacks have no choice but to celebrate our history, our achievements and pedagogic contributions to human evolution, because our success – our future and our progress – depends entirely on recognition. That is why we celebrate. We celebrate to scream “recognize us” because of the historic struggle and the malicious events of the past. We have come up through the soil, heads bloody but unbowed, conquered time and time again.

We celebrate for the hard-won victories of what we have suffered in striving for equality, despised for our sable skin, despised in the past for merely wanting a fair chance at the fundamental guarantees that our nation was built on: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we celebrate our unrelenting efforts: We celebrate the fact that our voices will be heard until they no longer need to be heard. Until there is no more cause to toil and protest because we will be unequivocally equal to all in these United States.

I sadly realized the largest reason we celebrate is that blacks are obligated to celebrate. If we don’t, no one else will. I also realized that in light of that fact, the “they” could not have referred to anyone but us: blacks. And the implications of this statement are gravely mistaken. If the sweaty, undying hard work of black students and community leaders to recall our history is merely “going through the motions,” then I can only wonder at what the majority of the United States thinks a significant action entails.

Here is the fact: Everything that blacks have ever attained in the United States has not come willingly, but by force; from emancipation, to the right to vote, to desegregation. All entailed the loss of life, bloodshed, lynching, murder and imprisonment. And I remember that. Even if all I do for February is remember that and act proactively and purposefully in life because I remember that, I assure, I have done much more than “go through the motions” of Black History Month. This is why we celebrate – for those who have gone before and those who will take up the cross after for our equality.

Sam Adegoke is the president of the Black Student Union. Please send comments to [email protected]