I haven’t always welcomed the arrival of Black History Month.
I grew up in Moore, Oklahoma a small city on the edge of Oklahoma City which has become known for its devastating tornadoes.
Oklahoma isn’t exactly an incubator for diversity and Moore wasn’t any different. Although student enrollment changed year to year due to our proximity to a military base I was often one of ten black children in the entire school and typically found myself to be the lone black child in my entire class.
I will never forget the day my fourth-grade teacher looked at me during the Black History Month lesson as she spoke about the slave trade. I can still hear her condescending voice as she described the inhumane conditions in which slaves were captured and forcibly brought to this country. It was as if she received pleasure watching me sit uncomfortably and fight back the tears as she recounted details from our textbook. I was the student she detested. I was smart, well loved, fully supported by my parents, and well adjusted. And I was black.
She sought to highlight my flaws every chance she got, and our black history month lessons were her ammunition.
In a class full of students I felt alone at my desk as my white and Hispanic classmates followed the teacher’s eye line and stared at me, a young representation of the resilience of the slaves who made it through the passage, the Jim Crow Era, Vietnam, and the Reagan years.
I should have been proud.
Now I know that my very existence is proof of my ancestors’ strength, but ten-year-old Tonya was just plain ol’ embarrassed. My teachers actions made me feel worthless and even more out of place in that Moore classroom.
My saving grace was the home that my parents created for me and my sister, where they constantly reminded us of our worth, our beauty, and our brilliance.
The Evolution Begins
We left Oklahoma after my first year of Junior High School and relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina. For the first time in my life I sat in a class that was racially mixed. A wide array of students of all ethnicities filled the seats in my classroom.
As Black History Month rolled around I didn’t know what to expect in my new school.
The first day of February I was greeted in the school lobby with bulletin boards and exhibits highlighting the accomplishments of Black Americans. It wasn’t our pain on display, but our accomplishments, our brilliance, our contributions to America and the world.
It was that day that Black History Month changed for me.
It became more than the Negro National Anthem and counting all of the ways that George Washington Carver utilized the peanuts. The lessons instilled by my parents began to take root as I buried myself in stories of black revolutionaries and inventors.
I became obsessed with learning about my history and the more I learned the more empowered I became.
As a woman of African descent who identifies as African American every single day of my life is Black Appreciation Day. But today, Black History Month is a month where we take center stage in classrooms, buildings, and programming throughout the country and are recognized for all that we as a people have contributed to this country despite the historical and ongoing atrocities committed against people of African descent.
To celebrate Black History Month this year at My Fab Finance we’re highlighting Black Wealth Creators who are creating noteworthy financial legacies and inspiring future generations to be financially successful and responsible.
Negative statistics and narratives are only a fraction of the story yet they often overshadow our experience and the work so many of us put in day in and day out to rewrite our stories and to break the chains of poverty and oppression.
This Black History Month may we remember that it is up to us to own our narrative and continue to chart our course toward financial freedom so that we can create lives that we are proud of and that we love.This #BlackHistoryMonth may we remember to own our narrative and continue to pursue financial freedom so that we can create lives that we are proud of and that we love” Click To Tweet
Happy Black History Month.
This article was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001. www.massmutual.com All opinions are those of the author.