by Sean Thomas-Breitfeld
[As Black History Month draws to a close, we would like to share this thought-provoking piece from our 2017 conference morning speaker, Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, co-director of Building Movement Project. It originally ran in 2014 and is reprinted with permission.]
This past week, an article about Black History Month by Theodore Johnson in The Atlantic really moved me. Johnson writes that our focus on historical icons makes this month of celebration too disconnected from people’s everyday experience. I share his concern on a personal level but as someone with a particular focus on organizations, I also worry that our tendency to present Black history through the lens of “extraordinary human beings” obscures the importance of groups of regular people coming together, creating community and establishing the infrastructure needed to not just make change but defend and sustain it. There’s another way to tell our history and understand progress – through the lens of collective stories, shared leadership, and the slow, steady march toward justice.