Celebrating cultures beyond a month

Bradyn Johnson | The Chronicle

Out of the 12 months that make up every year, 8 of them are heritage appreciation months. Black History Month just recently ended and Women’s History Month is coming to a close. But I find myself asking myself the same question every year. 

Why do we only limit the celebration of individual groups of people and their accomplishments to one specific month? 

For as long as I can remember, I only learned a limited portion of Native history when Christopher Columbus was talked about, I rarely heard of the monumental accomplishments that women made during the progressive era. I never learned about the LGBTQ+ community and their fight to gain equal rights. I only learned about black achievements in the month of February where we learned the big 3: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. 

There are also so many other important diverse groups that I never learned about, even during the months that they were supposed to be celebrated in, and when I did learn about them, it feels like we only scratched the surface.

I understand that the origin of creating these months came from a noble place to show appreciation for all diverse groups and that by doing so we’ve created awareness, bridged gaps, and opened doors to a better understanding of experiences, historical and current impact. However, there are times when I find it difficult to wrap my head around why, as a progressive society, we aren’t able to entirely celebrate underrepresented groups throughout all months of the year. We started these months in order to acknowledge these diverse groups and the historical contributions they made that went unnoticed by the American people. We’ve been “celebrating” these months for many years, but how can we actually do something meaningful about it?

Corporations, educational institutions and sports and entertainment organizations love to capitalize off of the achievements of underrepresented groups, but what are they really doing other than creating ads? 

Instead of focusing solely on celebrating women’s history month, what efforts are you putting in place to hire more women in leadership roles with equitable pay? Instead of focusing solely on celebrating pride month, how about creating a safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community where they can thrive and feel included? Instead of just celebrating American Indian Heritage month in school, how about we take the time to teach the delicate topics of the Indigenous people? Instead of celebrating Hispanic Heritage month in entertainment, how about we work to get more Hispanic people in leading roles in things like movies and tv shows? 

By incorporating these ideals regularly into our society, we’ll be celebrating different cultures beyond naming a month of the year after them.

The end goal is to get to a place where diversity is so interwoven in our constructs that we don’t have to relegate certain months out of the year to appreciate the excellence of diverse groups.

But until then, I hope we use these months as an opportunity to properly teach an organization’s history instead of profiting from them.

Illustration by Alisha Verma