Black History Month According to an Afro-Latin@

My name is Idalia T. Wilmoth, and I am an Afro-Latina American from Roatan, Honduras. To me, Black History Month means a time to “Re-member” the Sankofa, an African word from the Akan people which means “to return and retrieve; go and get it and bring it here; to return to the source; to recover the rich lessons.”

Black History Month is more than celebrating the enormous amount of invaluable contributions Black Americans have sacrificed and given to the United States and the entire world. It’s a moment where I believe African Diaspora peoples center and unify themselves in ways to reimagine life within the dominate narrative.

With February as Black History Month, we as a people deeply understand and appreciate a time designated to the celebration of African descendants. For me, Afro-Latino Americans have a long history of African linage that reaches back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. However, the narratives of Afro-Latinos often are rarely brought to light.

The Importance of Afro-Latin@s

According to Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores in their 2010 book The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, Afro-Latin@ communities have historically been structurally racialized, which has resulted in the creation of monolithic narratives surrounding what race and ethnicity mean; in this case, Black and Latinx. Both Black and Latinx discourse for me speaks to the intersecting identity I hold linguistically, culturally and even within the notion of Black indigeneity.

This intrinsically complex and unique blend of identity means that the African ancestors from their various ethnic groups were kidnapped from Africa, but brought their cultures, ideas, and world-views with them. In this regard, the experiences of Afro-Latino Americans are not homogenous but these communities exist simultaneously in similar and different ways throughout the African Diaspora. This simply means that Black History Month is always incomplete without the global narrative of Afro-Latinos.

Black History Month as Communion

It is for this reason that I always compare Black History Month to communion. I believe this month is a time to reflect, renew, and refuel. It’s an opportunity to show humility, reverence, and stand in awe of a God who protected His people through 400 years of slavery and displacement, Jim Crow and lynching, institutional discrimination, and global exploitation and erasure. It is a time to never forget and to stand on Hebrews 13:7 which says to,

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

The bible says to remember those leaders who embraced faith and were obedient to God’s calling. We should consider their lives, their examples and how they lived, and do our best to emulate their faith and leadership.

This month is a time to awaken the historical amnesia that sweeps the hearts and minds of many, and remind ourselves that Black History Month is a powerful tool against white supremacy. It is important that we avoid romanticizing Black history as this savior, heroic and achieving piece to our narratives. We must address the complexity of blackness and the ambiguity of the past. Let’s not only focus on celebrating the first inventors, but explore our first defeats and disappointments. Let’s be intentional about studying the critical thoughts and products of African heritage globally.

Black identity has shaped, informed and touched this world like nothing else. And Black History Month reminds us how we have done it so as to encourage this current generation to continue to do it. Adding the lens of Latinidad only adds to this rich understanding and call to true Black History.

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