February 1st marked the beginning of Black History Month. The official commemoration of the month-long event began in February 1976. The celebration falls under February as it coincides with the birthdays of influential historical figures Frederick Douglass
and Abraham Lincoln, who fought for freedom and equality. We had the opportunity to connect with AACRAO Black Caucus Chair Bianca Thompson-Owen and ask her about her perspective on the value of celebrating and commemorating Black History Month:
Black culture is something shared between many cultures, and having a month to celebrate Black culture highlights the various contributions of Black Americans—Black music, Black food, and the traditions of Black families—and that's really important. It's not just important for the current generation but also for future generations and future leaders.
We should be celebrating Black History Month because it's interwoven in the very fiber of all of our history. This month, we choose to celebrate it because it brings to life and gives meaning to us—as a people, nation, and culture—it gives us a voice [and the] opportunity to be forward-facing and allow the world to celebrate who we are.
Bianca shared some of her personal experiences with her involvement with the Black Caucus and the AACRAO community:
I was looking for an opportunity to feel connected and feel like I belonged. Sometimes it's intimidating when you join a large professional organization and don't have a sense of belonging. Becoming a member of the Black Caucus gave me a home, made me feel connected, and appreciated amongst my colleagues because we are of similar backgrounds and understand the various plights that we all go through.
It gave me the confidence to present [at meetings] and be more active in the association. It's important to find that sense of mentorship within the Caucus...to be tapped on the shoulders by Tiffani Robertson, and to have someone say, "Hey, you look like you have the ability to lead."
Being involved in the Caucus has given me the encouragement to succeed and to lead, and so for that, I will be forever grateful for the Black Caucus and the mentorship I've received.
AACRAO is proud to celebrate and commemorate the culture, traditions, and accomplishments of Black communities. Looking for ways to get involved? Reach out to the Black Caucus to hear about their experiences and join the conversation.
The National Park Service is hosting various events to honor Black heritage; browse the event calendar or find a park near you.