As we near the end of Black History Month, we’re excited to introduce you to some members of our church family and learn how they celebrate. Today, meet Nancy, Christian, and Jaedon Baez. They have attended Willow’s South Barrington campus since 2013 and live in Aurora, IL.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Nancy: “Black History Month is not just history for black people, it’s all of our history; it’s part of who we all are. Growing up, I learned a lot about white history, with white history makers, white heroes, and white inventors. My history lessons were not filled with stories of all the different kinds of people—people from different races and ethnicities—who impacted our world. It certainly was not filled with stories of all the great, positive things black people accomplished. Rather, what I learned about my history was the basic linear narrative that black people came from slaves. There was mention of Rosa Parks and more details about Martin Luther King, Jr, which most certainly inspired hope and helped me appreciate activism for the things I want to see changed. But what about Ida B Wells or Amy Ashwood Garvey or other historical figures who marked history in music, on the silver screen, or in other ways?
Now that I’m older and intentionally educating myself, I’m coming across so much beautiful history. And I’m like, Wow, this was happening too? And so-and-so did this! Thank God we have Black History Month, as it is a step toward moving closer to a racial reconciliation of sorts. As an Afro-Latin and as an American, it’s important to know and celebrate ALL of my history. I appreciate this month because it is a public reminder to dig deeper and continue to look for more of my people, all the people who marked history and made this country what it is today.”
Jaedon: “Black History Month means pride, especially because I’ve been in a lot of situations personally that have made me feel bad because of the color of my skin. Things that have made me not proud to be Afro-Latino. It makes me so happy to be in Black History Month and know that I’m celebrated, that we’re celebrated, that we don’t have to be ashamed of what we look like, that we don’t have to be ashamed to keep our culture, that we don’t have to assimilate. We can be proud of where we come from. We can be proud of who we are. That’s what Black History Month means to me.”
How do you celebrate?
Christian: “I am a person who enjoys celebrating. I love celebration, and I’ve learned recently that celebration is a skill. Black History Month just means celebration to me. And even though yes, it’s only 28 days, or 29 days this year, being able to celebrate and being able to find out something new is great. I get new facts every year, every day of the month. I get facts about what happened, what Black people have accomplished, and we have accomplished a lot.
I read more and watch more documentaries. I’ve accidentally watched the film 13th every Black History Month for the past two years, but this year I’m going to purposefully watch it. Since I’m in college, I’ll take a racial class where we’ll learn about how blacks were treated and how blacks are interacting with the country. And black music is my thing. While black music is playing, I like to learn the history of how the albums got made. Wow—black artistry is amazing. That’s how I like to celebrate."
Nancy: “Because the color of my skin, I don’t celebrate it just during one month. Because of the fact that I want to know more about who I am, it’s more of an ongoing learning experience. What I do to celebrate is definitely not confined to February. However, because of the communal emphasis, I place flashcards containing the pictures and data of different black history makers throughout the common areas of the house. I also make it a point to go see media that’s black produced or black written or black starred. We will attend a dinner at my son’s school that the Black Student Association puts on every year in honor of Black History Month.”
Jaedon: “At that dinner, there is a performance by the school’s Legacy Step Team and other activities that are focused around Black culture and history. We talk about famous black leaders. In the past, we have talked about Queen Candace of Ethiopia from the Bible—it’s very impactful. Before this year, I didn’t really “celebrate” it. I didn’t think much of it. We just talked about a lot of it at home, so I didn’t really need to, but this year I’m trying to learn more about people who look like me and about what they’ve done. I didn’t know the maker of the toilet was black. We don’t get taught that in school, and I don’t understand why. So I like to try and learn more about people who look like me who have done amazing things for the country and for the world.”
Nancy: “One of the things I also like to do is watch PBS. I find there’s no excuse not to immerse yourself into learning, into being better than the year before, even if you only do it on a yearly basis. Libraries highlight and display books by black authors, black stories, and it's all free. There are easy ways to get involved and learn more. You can really learn…every year, for the rest of your life.”