In African culture, the griot, or storyteller, repeats the old stories and passes knowledge on to the next generation. If not for this tradition, much of African history would be forgotten.
For this same reason, Carter G. Woodson, the "father of black history," felt black Americans needed to remember and celebrate their heritage. In 1926, he developed Negro History Week, which evolved into Black History Month.
There has been much debate about the value of Black History Month. Some say it has outlived its purpose. Some say the year's shortest month is not enough. Some say why define history by race? But regardless of the debate, we know that history is crucial to any culture and any country. The past can determine the present and the future.
How else will we remember the journeys of Harriet Tubman as she guided slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad? Or explore the many contributions of African-American creativity known as the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s? Can we afford to forget innovative inventors such as George Washington Carver, who developed hundreds of products from peanuts, or Garrett Morgan, who first patented an automatic electric traffic light?
Recent racial tension and division make it even more important that all Americans know our country's history and the contributions many diverse groups have made to it.
Celebrating Black History Month allows us to pause and remember the stories so we can commemorate the historic achievements.
All too often, only the most negative aspects of African-American culture and communities get highlighted in the news.
We hear about the poverty rates, incarceration rates and inner-city black-on-black crime. We are bombarded with images of misbehaving athletes and out-of-control Hollywood stars. We see all the bad news about blacks and not enough of the good.
There are young blacks making history today whom we don't hear about, like those featured recently in Black Enterprise magazine:
Georgia-based teenagers Charlie and Hannah Lucas launched a mobile app called notOK that makes it easy for youths in crisis to ask for help. The app sends a message to five pre-selected contacts in a phone if there is an issue. The app can be used by those with mental or physical problems.
Essynce Moore and AJ Carr have teamed up to launch a national tour dedicated to inspiring, empowering and educating thousands of elementary, middle and high school students.
Tony Hansberry II, at 14 years old, developed a stitching technique called the Endo Stitch, which can be used to reduce surgical complications as well as the chance of error among less-experienced surgeons.
These are just a few examples of positive change and innovation that can and have changed our history since the beginning.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE