History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we are literally criminals.James Baldwin
What is history? Is it just the study of the past or a lesson about not repeating our mistakes? Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure. But as I navigate my senior year of high school and find myself in the fourth Black History month I have experienced at Berkeley High, I can’t help but ask myself these questions. Here’s what I know.
History enables people to reexamine the paths sewn deeply into the past. It allows oneself to travel through time and place themself across the world. One peels history back not just to understand the structure of the world but to glimpse at the causes of their being. History is a matter of existence and identity.
Yet, for so long Black History has been subjected to censure and erasure. This purposeful attempt to destroy is designed to isolate me from the grounding of my past. This attempt is the lack of curriculum surrounding Blackness; it is the tokenism of Black figures; it is the constant gentrification of cities; it is the complacency with injustice; it is all of this and more. To be able to see the placement of systematic impediments to Black History, you do not need to look far- only carefully. Despite this, Black History remains intact. Like a pillar, it stands tall, weathering the attempts at its life. Black History is the truth that confirms I didn’t just explode into existence, but instead, I was deliberately formed by thousands of years of moments strung together. History is a matter of existence and identity.
Black History is what formed the Black Student Union (BSU). The first verb that comes to mind when thinking of the BSU is advocacy. The call for change that emanated from the BSU at its inception led to the district acknowledging Malcolm X day and creating the African American Studies Department. The protest to have Black History taught and preserved is a protest that persists, even today. Over the summer, thousands poured into the streets and demanded the inclusion of Black History into classrooms. Until society finally uplifts Black History, there will continue the timeless protest and push for Black History. That is one of the tenets of the BSU. To provide a space to learn and thrive in Black History. So that students have an environment where they are not confined and can become the next catalyst for change. I invite you to become part of the effort. History is a matter of existence and identity.
There is an illumination that is inextricably linked to Black History, a rediscovery of what it means to be present. With its infinitely deep and expressive roots, Black History surrounds me and provides context to who I am. There have been restrictions on the exploration of Black History, a societal blockade preventing seeking answers for far too long. However, Black History is a call to action that extends far into the past and the future. As I continue to maneuver my way to the end of my Berkeley High career, I realize and understand this: Black History is not just a matter of existence and identity. Black History is Freedom.