I keep learning about recent and distant history as I go. There is really no way to get the whole sweep of human history in a few classes in high school. It’s not enough. 

As an Anglo-American from Minnesota, my life has some traces of the troubles found in black history. Recent black history that came close to me occurred while I lived in St. Paul until 2015. An African-American colleague of mine was stopped for driving too fast along University Ave. on the way to a church meeting and the officer approached her car with gun drawn. A young church member was stopped just after exiting 35-W South because there had been a burglary report in the neighborhood and she “fit the description” (or, was driving while black). Later that year she was followed by a police officer while going to see an apartment in a primarily white Minneapolis neighborhood; he then falsified a traffic ticket that caused her to lose a day of work to show up in court. A friend of mine was working at a bike shop and test-riding a recent repair. He was pulled off the bike, zip-cuffed, and put in the back seat of a squad car, even though other bike mechanics were telling the police that he worked at the shop (first black man to be a mechanic there) and was just doing his job--not stealing a bike.

Last summer our nation was shaken awake by the deaths of unarmed black women and men; here in Amery, we--your neighbors, family and friends--showed up to protest police violence and gather mutual aid for the Twin Cities neighborhoods that were harmed. We are still showing up in service as volunteer educators and activists in our community for the work of identifying and dismantling racism.

Black History Month is United States history month; it is about our past, present day, and our future as a country. When we understand our history we can more clearly see how the past has informed the present.

Sometimes, we make the mistake of leaving history in the past, not recognizing the inheritance that is ours, and missing history’s connection with us now. Each day or month of honor and remembrance (Memorial Day, Veterans Day, 4th of July, Black History, Women’s History, etc.) helps us continue to write the story of who we are with deeper understanding.

Of course a month is not enough, for the future is in our hands.

Donna Martinson


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