What is Black History?

Written by: Ora Battle

OraWhen I started writing this piece, I made a list of words that came to mind when I thought of Black history. Words like “resilience” or “persistence” were the first ones that the thought experiment evoked. I was immediately struck by the fact that so much of our history as Black people is rooted in trauma, in overcoming, in surviving despite our circumstances. Many of us come from a line of people who were enslaved, who were colonized, who were raped, killed, who faced some of the worst atrocities that can be inflicted on a human being. I thought about how I still find pride and strength in such heartbreak. But, for a moment, I’d like to change the narrative. As a culture, we spend a lot of time rightfully mourning our history—I’d like to celebrate it.


I grew up in a multicultural home; my mother hails from the islands of Puerto 

Rico and Jamaica, and my father from the United States—his parents coming from Ohio and Alabama. I have had the privilege of being able to claim the rich history of three diasporic cultures. I grew up on Earth, Wind, and Fire, Hector Lavoe, and Bob Marley. I grew up with the uniquely rolled r’s and anglicisms of Boricua Spanish and the regional nuances of Afro-American Vernacular English (AAVE)—otherwise known as ebonics. I grew up in a home where arroz con gandules, black-eyed peas, and ackee coexisted. Above all, I grew up in a home that celebrated Blackness and its absolute refusal to be suppressed, silenced, or pushed aside.


One of my favorite Black figures is Angela Davis. A woman who stands firm in her Blackness, a woman who refuses to be suppressed, silenced, or pushed aside.  A woman who fought and is still fighting. Who educated and is still educating. Who recognizes that our fight is global, that it stands with people from my island of Puerto Rico all the way to the people of Palestine. I love her presence—not just her aura, but the fact that she’s still here today. So often, we forget just how recent our history is.  Many of our leaders were taken from us so early that we forget that they should still be here. Although it pains me that we still have to fight, I’m glad we get to fight alongside Angela Davis. It’s an honor to share a movement with someone who’s been fighting from the beginning.  


Black history spans from the beginning of time all the way to the end of time. It is more than our pain—it is our unrelinquishing spirit, our desire for better, our tradition of excellence, our creativity, our wit; it is everything we can imagine and more. With every breath my fellow Black siblings and I take, Black history is being made. Our mere existence is a celebration of Black history, Black pride, and Black resilience.


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