It’s Black History Month in the US! The sad irony is that the shortest month of the year is designated for delving into the well of black experiences and our collective contribution to America. The month of observance came from nearly a century of work to preserve the existence of blacks. As a lover of history, it is a great time to feel seen in aspects of global history that either focus exclusively on the struggles of black people during slavery and the Civil Rights Movement or erase us all together. I love finding out something new about a historic figure who little may have been known about just a decade or two before.
Black expats through history
This year, I am looking for more stories about people who had a need or desire to relocate from America throughout history. In addition to the likes of James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, and Paul Dunbar, it felt fitting to learn about others who sought refuge from the heaviness (and underlying danger) of living in America. In this fantastic article about African Americans in Asia between the two World Wars, I learned more about Howard Thurman’s time in South Asia, and the long impact it had on his thinking afterward. It was truly a “full circle” moment. My alma mater is the home of a center named for him that seeks to find common ground. Seriously, look him up. We are still living with his impact on the Civil Rights Movement and the theology scholars of the time.
The similarities between the expat experience today and of people nearly a century before is the most interesting and affirming takeaway from my research this year. It reinforces my belief that black American expats today aren’t part of a new trend. We are continuing a long tradition that includes a search for identity and opportunity outside of the United States. Maybe our contributions today will also have a lasting impact on the countries we temporarily call home.
Making black history a family affair
Black History Month is an opportune time to provide the kids with more specific knowledge of African American history. Living outside of the US insulates them from race-related topics that our friends back home talk about tackling with their children. That doesn’t mean we can avoid discussing race completely. That’s why it’s crucial to create family traditions abroad and focus on teaching what’s important to you.
Now that the kids are getting older, this exploration has expanded to include them. In the midst of corporate statements pledging solidarity and sales (yay, capitalism?), I am digging a little deeper for stories to introduce to them. Luckily, there is a growing wealth of resources online as well as books, movies, and TV shows.