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Black History Month

What Black History Month Means to Me

Imagine it is the last day of an amazing weekend with your closest friends. You all haven’t been all together in one place in over 10 years. After all the laughter, tears, and reminiscing, you all gather for a group picture before parting ways and ask a passerby to take one last group picture. Each one of you eagerly hands over their phone and asks the nice stranger, “One more please, with my phone.”

The first thing you do after everyone is finished is to look for yourself in the picture on the phone, duh! You excitedly scan the pic. Everyone looks great. All smiling. Everyone’s eyes open. But wait. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong.

You’ve spent a considerable amount of time with your friends, not just this weekend but throughout your life. Your friends know stories that you haven’t even told your spouse. They are more than your friends; they are your family. You also helped organize the weekend plans, which is not an easy task with everyone’s schedule, wants, and needs!

And after all of that effort…

You don’t even see yourself in the photo.

This is what it feels like to be an African American fitness instructor. You contribute to society to make a positive impact and to make a difference in your community, but the flash goes off, and your existence, along with any acknowledgment, disappears. You put in countless hours developing your craft and to contribute to "the fitness brand," but only to see promos and advertisements that do not represent or look like the person you see in the mirror. It also becomes increasingly difficult to feel a sense of belonging in light of highly publicized racial incidents like the incident at a Starbucks and incidents of police killing innocent black men and women.

My identity as an African American woman is my superpower on the podium in front of a class and in life. My confidence is developed out of necessity due to consistently being one of the very few black women in the room. My persistence and vulnerability are derived from picking myself back up after experiencing countless failures. My passion and ability to motivate others are a result of years of personal experiences with adversity. My strength and authenticity are embedded in the history of my ancestors.

Black History Month, much like LGBTQ+ Pride Month or Women's History Month, is an opportunity to celebrate our otherness, our uniqueness, our history, and our triumphs. It is important to celebrate Black History Month because it provides an opportunity to highlight and celebrate African-American history and culture, which, in turn, highlights a more positive aspect of the African American community. All too often, only the worst of the African American community gets reported and highlighted in public, which leads to being left out of the picture
when the flash goes off. Black History Month allows Americans to build stronger communities by remembering that Black history is a part of American history.

Black History Month is the opportunity for me to finally be seen in the picture.

-Kim Walker


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