Black History Month – The Power of Stories
It has been 45 years since "Negro History Week" expanded into Black History Month. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Black Historian Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland started the week to tell stories, narratives, and rich history of Black America. It was a way to correct the narrative and tell stories purposely whitewashed by history. This month is a form of sacred storytelling, a time to intentionally recognize and honor past and present achievements of Black people. Using storytelling, Black History helps bridge our collective realities with individual experiences and functions as a tool to help unpack and dismantle racism. Storytelling can “enable critical consciousness and alternative visions for human relations and societal structures.”1
2020 held a mirror to the world and forced many to see the realities of our identity as a country and racism in all its guises. Institutional racism caused Black and Brown people to die disproportionately from COVID-19. The horrific murder of George Floyd and, Breonna Taylor at the hands of police brutality, sparked an international reckoning with racism, white supremacy, and state-sanctioned violence. Massive protests for Black lives and liberation, and rapid grassroots organization for voting rights, police funding reallocation, other progressive policies, institutional accountability, and other progressive policies.
It was a historic year, where we endured drastic changes in the social fabric of our world. We struggled to connect and adjust to a new virtual world and new ways of being “in community”. The struggle for and stories of civil rights, human rights, COVID19, and racial justice dominated our conversations and the electronic screens of our lives. We could not ignore it. We were, and are, not okay.
As part of their racial reckoning, many individuals, businesses, and organizations made verbal commitments to educate themselves about Black history and to stand in solidarity against racism. These commitments, in the past, have been used as a tool to perform solidarity, without actual systemic changes to support that community or commitment. However, something feels different about this historic moment, which makes this year’s Black History Month even more crucial.
Black History Month harnesses the power of storytelling and for our part, RE-Center and CT Black and Brown Student Union partnered to create a space to hear the experiences and stories of young people about the impacts of a world in upheaval on their lives, their wellness, and their habits. This multifaceted project focused on cultivating, documenting, and archiving Black, Indigenous, and other Youth of Color(BIYOC)voices while fostering intergenerational connection and wellness.
The Quaranteens Youth Interview Series is a form of storytelling focused on collecting BIYOC stories and experiences during the global pandemic and uprisings. It provides a space for youth to share their stories to be archived at the Hartford History Center in the public library and joins other primary source historical documents that tell the truth of Black history and experience in Connecticut. Students were interviewed and the content was used to create a video highlighting their histories and experiences sharing their uncertainty about the future. QuaranTeens serves as a reminder that youth are always at the forefront of change because their vision represents our collective future.