Black History Month and Beyond- Kyla’s Perspective - SHIM

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Black History Month and Beyond- Kyla’s Perspective

Cropped Kyla v2by Kyla Ross, SHIM Basic Needs Coordinator

As Black History Month ends, I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to continue thinking about amplifying messages of equity and inclusion. While many of us in the nonprofit community have made strides in this area, we sometimes feel hesitant in knowing what steps to take. As a Black woman, I want to share my thoughts about how we can honor Black history while moving in the right direction.

It’s great that we have a month dedicated to honoring African American people but dedicating the shortest month of the year to emphasizing a complicated history of 47.9 million Americans doesn’t seem like enough to change public perceptions.

Racism is a tough topic, and I’m not going to dwell on the hardships that Black people have faced in our country. Instead, I want to talk about how we can move forward together to improve inclusivity in our communities.

When I educate myself, my children, and the people in my life, about Black history, I don’t limit it to February. Though it is purposely thought about and discussed during the month, it feels constrained to only focus on it during this designated time.

I’ve lived in several different parts of the United States, and I’ve noticed that misconceptions most often occur in communities where residents haven’t traveled much or experienced life outside of their small towns. I’ve witnessed small-mindedness in several communities, even within Black communities, when people haven’t taken the time to learn about people who are different from them.

One of the ways in which we can make a difference is by calling out bigotry or stereotypes when we are faced with them. Many of us are tempted to stay silent when a friend or family member says something judgmental or uninformed because we are afraid of confrontation. From my experience, this is the perfect time to educate! Instead of being quiet, enlighten people who may have misconceptions. If you step up in the moment, especially with people you are intimate with in your life, you can make a difference.

I see similarities between Black people fleeing slavery and some of our current SHIM clients, who have fled persecution based on their religion or culture. When it comes down to being inclusive and open minded, getting to know people beyond physical appearances will ultimately help us build more inclusive societies.

You can read all you want about Black history, but if you don’t have conversations then that knowledge won’t spread. Learn about people’s actual experiences and be comfortable asking questions. Make space for alternate viewpoints, and you’ll find that we are more alike than we are different.

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