Black History Month is a launchpad for cultural, spiritual, and historical understanding of African Americans and unity in America.
As Unity observes and celebrates Black History Month, some of its Black leaders explain why Black History Month remains important, especially in a spiritual context.
Rev. Jackie Hawkins
Minister, San Marcos, California
First, we must ask the question, Why history?
The answer is that history helps us to understand who we are. It helps us to better understand ourselves. And who you are needs to have a sense of self.
Black history supports our country’s quest to understand itself as a collective. And this history tells a story. The story of Black life experiences and contributions to this country is rich. It is beautiful. It is complex. It is diverse. It is multiethnic. This beautiful, complex mosaic truly is significant. And it bears repeating and celebration.
In Unity we believe there is one presence and one power, God the good, omnipotence.
Well, that power is diverse. That power is inclusive. That power resides in each of us. And so for us to understand who we are, the story must include all of us. That is why Black History Month is important.
Rev. Kevin Kitrell Ross
Unity of Sacramento, California
Black History Month is important to celebrate because Black history is American history. It’s so essential that we more and more highlight the accomplishments of African Americans all year around and normalize excellence.
By taking a month to kick off a yearlong celebration, we are normalizing excellence and the high achievements of individuals of African descent here in the United States. Black history is American history.
Rev. Sheree Taylor-Jones
Ministry Consultant, Author
Until the history books are written with an inclusive framework, Black History Month is vital.
I remember when I was a little kid, the history I learned was from the dominant narrative worldview. And the dominant narrative worldview simply meant that those who were a success—who were the inventors, the scientists, the explorers, and the warriors—were people who were white.
Sure, there was a small snippet of successful people of color such as George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but they were exceptions rather than the norm.
As Black History Month becomes more acceptable in our society, I’ve learned a lot about Black people who have been amazing contributors to our society—to technology and to culture.
I have a dream. My dream is that Black History Month becomes obsolete as the contributors of all races, all creeds, and all colors are honestly and accurately given a place in history.
As this shift happens, we will see more equality in schools, in our economy, and in our communities, because there will be an awakening that each of us is of God regardless of the color of our skin.
Rev. Saba Mchunguzi
Unity of Huntington, Huntington Station, New York
I believe Black History Month is very important because it gives us an established time to talk about the contributions of Africans and African Americans to the world.
Unfortunately, Africans and African Americans have been marginalized and subjugated, and they’ve been discriminated against, and we have been made to feel that we are less than others. And by the same token, others have been made to feel—even if only subconsciously—that they are superior and that Africans and African Americans have not contributed anything to the world.
In terms of African Americans, we’ve been portrayed in literature and the media and in history books as being shiftless and lazy, not willing to work and looking for a handout. We’ve been portrayed as thugs and being violent and irresponsible.
Black History Month and the teaching year-round of accurate Black history dispels these terrible myths and, in the process, helps Black people to become prouder of themselves and their ancestors.
It also shows others that African Americans have a history in this country that transcends slavery. It shows the accomplishments that we’ve made in spite of the racism and discrimination that we’ve been made to endure.
Rev. Joslyn Mason
Unity of Kalamazoo, Michigan
Black people are a part of this America. The Unity teachings teach us that we are all one community, that we are all members of one family, that we are all a part of God, and that in God, there is oneness.
The teachings of Unity help us to come into a deeper understanding of welcoming equity, equality, and diversity, opening our doors so all people are welcome to come.
The world needs Unity—it’s all in our name. The world needs us to step up and to reach out. So Black History Month is just a beginning of opening ourselves up in a greater way to search for, to research, and to understand the part that African Americans play in our culture and the part that all people, really, play in bringing unity to our country.
In this month of African-American history, I hope you will stretch and find out more. I hope you also will realize the spiritual depth of Unity. And the depth of spiritual practice is oneness, gathering together in unity.
Jesus taught us to love one another, to love your neighbor as yourself. Indeed, everyone on this planet is your neighbor.
Rev. Kathy Beasley
Central Florida Center for Spiritual Living, Orlando
I believe Black History Month is a catalyst that has the power to invite the world to gain a broader, deeper, and more meaningful understanding of Black histories—then, now, and not yet.
Black History Month does this by going beyond the margins of slavery and racism and the loss of countless lives across time. It has become in me a call to lift up the power, the significance, and the value of the impact of Black people upon science, spirituality, economics, medicine, education, and the like. Black History Month reminds me of who I am and who I am created to be.
I know that there are so many challenges in our world, and to face those I have to remember my truth. I was born to overcome because my life is the answer to prayers prayed long before I came into existence. I know that my work is the key that opens doors for others like me. I know that my voice and presence are ultimate difference-makers in an unfinished world.
Black History Month is important to me because it cultivates the past. It throws light upon the present. And it points toward a real, viable future for us all.
Rev. James Trapp
Senior Minister, Spiritual Life Center, Sacramento, California
If you take time to sincerely hear and know another person’s story, particularly if it’s someone you feel separate from or have been taught to tolerate, something powerful can happen. You can move beyond toleration to appreciation and even perhaps have a love for those people.
Nearly everyone has known hardship and setbacks in life, just as we have all experienced joy in this journey of life. When you know their story, the sense of separation begins to fall away. African Americans have a myriad of stories to tell about their lives and their history, and their stories are interconnected with the greatest story of all humanity—and that is, we are all one.
This is why Black History Month is important. The stories that describe the lives and the history of African Americans can help remind us that despite the appearance of separate bodies, individual personalities, and different pursuits, we are one humanity, each with a unique contribution to make to the human race.
When all the stories of the different expressions of humanity are told, we’ll not just see color, but we will see different shades and expressions of the infinite presence of the universe, or what we call God, revealing itself. We’ll not just see separate cultures; we’ll see the many variations of how Spirit needs all of the cultures and races to reveal its infinite nature.
Rev. Edith Washington-Woods
Unity San Diego, California
Given our world community, it is important to acknowledge and share our rich histories, cultures, and lived experiences as Black people worldwide, with everyone. This honors our uniqueness as God’s kaleidoscope of collective awareness.
Rev. Sandra Campbell
Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri
So little of our history has reported the truth about the people who helped to build not only this nation but this world and the triumphs and tribulations they went through in order to do that.
My ancestry depends on us telling our stories so we can truly live out the truth we know, that we can change this world for the better, a world that works for everyone, all living beings. That’s what Black History Month is about.
Let’s open our minds, open our hearts, and open our eyes. The truth has not totally been told to us from childhood, from history books, from classes, and from elementary school to high school.
Many of us are just now learning the truth. Once we know the truth, it is that understanding of the truth, not just the knowledge but the experience of the truth, that is going to make us free, not just as Black people but as all people.