In celebration of Black History Month, we discussed heritage, tradition and how to celebrate with North Highlanders, including:
Nina Babel, Senior Project Manager – Washington, DC
Ricardo Olusanya, Senior Business Analyst – London
Myriah Sparks, Senior Consultant – Atlanta
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Nina: Honoring and paying homage to those before us who were great inventors and innovators in many fields.
Ricardo: Black History Month for me is a time to think about what it means to be a man of colour. We stand on the shoulders of those who sacrificed to pave the way for a better tomorrow. In addition, it is a time to reflect on the activists and organizers of the past involved in the fight for racial equality.
Myriah: Black History Month to me means a celebration of black culture and recognizing the contributions that we have made in history that have shaped the society we live in today. It is educational for everyone who may not understand or know much about African-American history. It even reminds me of how far we have come as a culture and allows me the time to reflect on my own heritage.
How do you celebrate? Do you have any traditions?
Nina: Trinidad Carnival is a very ritualistic cultural tribute to slavery and celebrating traditions that were practiced by ancestors.
Ricardo: We have a family cookout with our loved ones, regardless of colour and make traditional food, whilst teaching the kids within the family how to cook, bake and celebrate Black History Month.
Myriah: I celebrate by supporting black-owned business. I try to do that throughout the year, but this is the month where I am very intentional about supporting a black-owned business.
Who has been a big influence on your life for celebrating your heritage?
Nina: Malcolm X has been a big influence on my life and how I celebrate my heritage.
Ricardo: My late father was my biggest influence and since his passing, we as a family do our best to continue to celebrate and not forget our heritage and upbringing.
Myriah: My grandfather was my biggest influence. He was raised in a time where the opportunities for African Americans were very limited. He overcame the odds and became an academic scholar and was the president of several colleges and universities. He always stressed the importance of education and the powerfulness of being black, beautiful and bright.
How do you celebrate your heritage beyond Black History Month?
Ricardo: I celebrate by learning about Black Art and Culture by attending yearly events within East London.
Myriah: The way I celebrate my heritage is by constantly giving back to my community. I have a non-profit organization called College Has Its Life Lessons (C.H.I.L.L.) that serves minority high school students to prepare them socially and emotionally for the transition into college. C.H.I.L.L. provides scholarships and care packages to incoming freshman to lessen the financial burden of college.
How can we celebrate black history all year long?
Nina: There are modern-day inventors who are on Forbes lists or Afro Tech. We can look to them for inspiration and to admire their greatness.
Ricardo: Read books or poems by African American authors, listen to African American music throughout the year, watch films and shows featuring African American actors and directors and read essays and watch online talks about African American history.
Myriah: I think awareness is how everyone can celebrate Black History all year round. It’s loving one another despite their cultural background. It is taking the time out to understand some of the issues that plague the black communities today and educating yourself around those issues.