By Jalen Robinzine, Downtown Arlington intern
What does Black History Month mean to you? We hear the words “recognition” and “remembrance” tossed around a lot in relation to this special month, however, those words both have a past tense connotation to them. Personally, Black History Month is the one time history has actually inspired me.
Sure, there’s plenty of pain and suffering, shamelessly highlighted by Hollywood’s obsession with Black trauma, but there’s also a lot of beauty as well. Black History Month is more than a month, and it’s more than just history. Black history is being made every day as we live the lives our ancestors fought for us to have.
History is more than war and peace treaties; for a lot of people, past and present, history is the stories of triumph in one’s personal life. These stories all involve people stepping out of their societally-imposed comfort zone in order to change the narrative of their respective fields. That’s the beauty of Black History; it’s about the men, women, and children who continuously endure systemic challenges to create something better for themselves and for those who come after.
One story that stands out to me is that of Jim Shankle, a man who risked his life on a 400-mile journey to reunite with his wife Winnie and their children after they were sold to a Texas slave owner. This is a story of love and passion and an unwillingness to succumb to one’s misfortunes.
Shankle’s determination would be instilled in his children and their children and so forth until we reach his great-great grandson Elzie Odom, Arlington’s first Black Mayor. Odom was very active in his community and is widely known for how he connected with the youth of his city. He frequently visited schools, was heavily involved with disability programs, and worked to increase diversity in city government.
Whatever Odom put his mind to, his heart wasn’t far behind. He ran for Mayor of the City of Arlington on the premise of getting results for Arlington simply because he cared for his family, his city, and its people. Odom saw a need and took matters into his own hands to promote progress. Now, today, his daughter, Barbara Odom-Wesley, continues her family’s legacy of dedicated public service as the Arlington City Councilwoman for District 8. This motivation to promote progress is prevalent throughout all of Black History, regardless of the time period.
Black History Month exists beyond the actions of the past and, for example, includes the dreams and aspirations of the University of Texas at Arlington’s current Black community.
Black history is Chelsea Poe, a nursing major who understands her role as a healthcare advocate for people who have been statistically overlooked due to stereotypes, biases, and ignorance.
Black history is Nicole Iwueke, Broadcast and Theatre major who is rewriting the natural order of the industry by challenging the Eurocentric ideas of art and film.
Black history is Jemima Oluwagbemiga, a STEM major who aims to be a role model in a field with few faces that look similar to hers.
Black history is me, a young UTA student with nothing to his name but a pen and an opinion, being able to write this article for you today to celebrate the stories of Black people everywhere.
No matter how big or small, these are the stories that make Black History Month so remarkable. When we see a need in our community, our city, or our life and are willing to undergo any amount of pain and stress to fulfill that need, we are taking part in the ripples that grow into a tidal wave and submerge the world in some much-needed change.
I applaud the silent battles being waged and the tiny feats being accomplished as we speak. I commend you for the drive it takes to start your own business, like Hershey, who has brought his passion for Chicago food to Arlington, or Jerry Shirer, a community leader and Rita's owner whose skills in entrepreneurship inspires us all. I thank you for having the courage and willpower to represent us in political positions where we are scarcely heard. Black “History” is happening all around us! And these are examples of “history repeating itself” in a way that lifts up our entire community.
Just because February has come to an end doesn’t mean we put away the spirit of Black History Month until next year. It’s more than having “BLM” in your Instagram bio or retweeting a Black-owned business profile; it’s a continuous and genuine effort to recognize and support the endeavors of the Black community. Therefore, I wish you a happy Black History Lifetime.