image credit: University of California MERCED
Every February we come together to talk about Black History Month. Once a year, the shortest month of the year, we get together to remember and pay tribute to those who have paved the way for Black people. We think about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks and their contributions to civil rights; Henrietta Lacks and her HeLa cell line; Mae Jemison being the first Black woman to travel into space; George Washington Carver, agricultural scientist and inventor whose contributions are still seen today. What is normally a month of playing Black History’s greatest hits, it also bears remembering that our history isn’t limited to the names you know and hear all of the time, the stories that made the books, movies, and tv shows, or what one person thought was important or worth remembering. It’s not relegated to only take place in February, or the past. Not only if your name is Malcolm X. Not only if it involves civil rights or basketball championships.
We make Black history every day. We excel, invent, innovate, break barriers, create change and so much more constantly. We graduate top of our class, we work on vaccines, we become the first female Vice President, we’re CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, we’re the youngest inaugural poet, we start movements, we call out injustice and fix inequity, we make sure people don’t go hungry, have clothes on their back and a roof over their head. There is no bounds to our capabilities. And we’re not stopping.
Someone who seems the most ordinary can have the biggest impact on history. That could be at any age or phase of your life, whether you’re queer, work at a bank, don’t have a car, had Covid, eat vegan - we all can do it. Our smallest steps make history, and when I take a look around, no matter how dire a situation may feel, I have hope that things will get better. There is so much hope to have for the future.
We have potential. Usually when someone says “You have so much potential...” I start feeling the slightest negative feeling, like I’m some how letting someone down if my actions warranted this phrase. But this phrase is not a neg or a dig. It’s belief. It’s faith. It’s holding the utmost confidence in your abilities, and someone seeing that in you, even on days when you can’t. Living up to your own possibilities doesn’t have to be a daunting task, or something you feel someone is doing vicariously through you. Live your own truth. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Being willing to put yourself out there and try is huge. To have success, no matter how big or small, is such a tremendous feat. The size of your personal win doesn’t falter how remarkable you are. You’re already great and your existence is making history. So keep doing what you're doing, or go after a spark when you see it. Your story needs to be told and we’re cheering you on - everyday.
Author: Arla White
Arla White (she/her) is a local Pittsburgh comedian, singer and performance artist. She is a huge enthusiast of chasing dreams, dogs in sweaters, and pizza.