One of the world’s largest wild cats is the Siberian tiger. Unfortunately, these beautiful creatures are an endangered species, and it has taken hard work from a diverse coalition of people to save them from extinction. Similarly, Black history can be viewed as an “endangered species” that we have to work deliberately to keep alive so that we can ensure that its knowledge is ongoing.
Just like Siberian tigers play an important role in their food chain, Black history has its purpose in the ecosystem of history. Although the role of Black people in the United States is a subject that has been suppressed, there is no American history without Black history. The study of this history opens the door for a more inclusive account in which people can learn the numerous contributions that Black people have made to America and the world.
In an effort to keep the Siberian tigers safe, conservationists have created sanctuaries where these felines are protected from people and forces that threaten them. Like these tigers, Black history needs sanctuaries to give it a fighting chance at survival. In 2019, when I was 15 years old, I decided to create my own sanctuary for Black history called Slay It Proud, an apparel and educational company, to share the contributions of lesser-known Black historical figures.
To help educate people, I have used social media platforms to connect and reach a wider viewing audience of many ages and backgrounds. I have produced weekly, one-minute videos for over two years highlighting an influential Black figure in history in each.
Because Black history was a subject that was not taught in my school, I took it upon myself to help educate my peers with what I have learned through self-study. During past Black History Months, my videos were featured in my school’s weekly news for the students to view. With the help of some of my peers, I also created an online Black history museum.
It is exciting to know that people are wearing T-shirts that I’ve made promoting messages of Black empowerment and spreading these positive messages. I have also had the amazing opportunity to be featured on news stations and speak at different venues, which has helped me gain an appreciation for what others are already doing to contribute to Black empowerment.
Today, many people feel helpless in the fight to create a more equal society, but knowing our history can teach us otherwise. Studying Black history reveals how people of different ethnicities, cultures, and ideologies can work together in the fight against racism and exclusion. There were many allies of different races who fought against slavery and struggled for civil rights.
Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable, but there are traumatic parts of Black history. It includes stories of extensive physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional abuse, but it also includes stories of persistence, determination, brilliance, innovation, love, victory, faith, and resilience. These invaluable stories all deserve safeguarding.
My desire is for multiple sanctuaries for this history—within home libraries, classrooms, public forums, and social platforms. I hope that all who read this believe that you can help create a sanctuary to keep Black history alive simply by learning more and sharing the knowledge you gain. One of the T-shirts I designed sums this message up: “The more we know our history, the more powerful we become.”
Coverage of race and opportunity is supported in part by a grant from Spencer Foundation, at www.spencer.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2022 edition of Education Week as Black History Needs Sanctuaries