I was looking at my computer screen, feeling so many emotions, fighting back my tears. I was moved by the video that was playing on my computer. I was watching a video that was created by Hillsong UK several years ago in honor of Black History month. As a mom of three black kids and one black grandson, and as a social worker and school counselor who has devoted her life to justice, I was deeply moved by the beautiful stories I was being given the privilege to lean into and learn from.
I don’t know if you are aware, but all around the world different countries take certain days and months to honor different cultural groups. Many of our global Hillsong locations have participated in the tradition. It is a time of remembering, honoring, learning, and celebrating the racial and ethnic diversity that makes up our world. One example is that in July in the UK it is Asian Heritage Month and in Australia it is NAIDOC week.
February is no exception to the global tradition, as Canada, Germany and the United States honor Black History Month. Black history month was created ninety-seven years ago in the US. In 1926, Carter G Woodson, a prominent African American and historian created Negro History Week. It is out of this week that Black History Month was created. The Netherlands and the UK honor Black History month in October.
Black history is deeply personal and with this as our backdrop I asked my friend Femi Olu-Lafe what Black History Month means to her. A little about Femi is that she is attends Hillsong East Coast (in the United States), is a member of the Hillsong Global Race Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and is the Senior Vice President of Global Culture & Inclusion for Kinesso and its sister agencies. This is what Femi said:
“For me, Black History Month is this important moment where as a nation we reflect and honor. For me Black History Month is about reflection and acknowledging the triumphs and trials of Black people. It’s about looking at where we are right now, our current state and leveraging this spotlight to drive meaningful change this month and beyond. Black History Month is a time to appreciate Black excellence while also recognizing Black humanity. It’s a time of somberness and celebration, reflection and action. It’s a time to consider the part I want to play to make a difference.”
Femi and I also talked about ways to honor Black History Month, Femi sharing a few suggestions. Here is a little window into our conversation.
Femi’s first suggestion was to consider curiosity. She shared, “no matter how much or little someone knows about Black History Month, they should ask the following question; how can I be more curious?” So good, because this requires a certain heart posture, of both humility and curiosity. Femi said to me, “there are always new things to learn. I am a part of this community, and yet I am always learning new things about it.” Here are some next steps we discussed:
– Make a list of things you can do to educate yourself beyond what you know and then spend the month being curious
– Start with an internet search to learn more and educate yourself
– Start with, why is this month important
– Then ask, how can I learn more about this month and this people and this community
While the goal of Black History Month is to honor the Black experience, it is important to be mindful that there is no single definitive Black experience. The global Black community is diverse and filled with varying perspectives, histories, cultures and backgrounds. It is important to not make assumptions, and to seek out many stories instead of one single narrative. Here are some additional resources put together by one of our Hillsong locations.
Femi’s second suggestion was to consider compassion. As we talked, I felt a little bit of the preacher in me coming out, because come on now! Compassion is role modeled by Jesus time and time again! Compassion is the business of the Holy Spirit! Compassion is living out the second greatest commandment! Compassion should move us to action! Femi shared:
“As you learn, you might find things that move your heart. It is something you can prayerfully consider and ask God, how do I become more compassionate? What do you want me to do about what I am learning? Maybe you learn something, and God highlights someone or an organization that you can partner with or support.”
Femi’s third suggestion was to consider celebrating. Celebrating the hard work, it has taken to get to where we are today. Celebrating the beauty of diversity. Celebrating the way that God personally directs you to.
I’m going to end with a quote Femi ended with as we wrapped up our conversation. The quote she shared was: “be the reason someone feels welcomed, seen, heard, valued, and loved.” I pray this is our heart as a global Hillsong community. For every month of the year, as we continue to press into ethnic and racial healing and unity.
Maria Hansen-Quine, LASW, MSW, CSC
Hillsong Global Race Diversity and Inclusion Manager