Why was Black History Month created?
Since some time ago, there has been an increase in articles and content about Black History Month throughout the entire month of February. The more black customers a store has, the more important they consider February from a marketing perspective, thinking about events and sale items. It seems that they are moving beyond racial discrimination and becoming more mature in adapting to multiculturalism. However, on the other hand, there is also a tendency to use Black History Month for marketing purposes without fully understanding the meaning or reasons behind it, just because others are doing it. In our beauty market, where we handle hair and beauty products and the majority of our customers are black, Black History Month may have more significance than other days. It may be worthwhile to take a closer look at the traces of history.
Who was the pioneer of Black History Month?
Martin Luther King? Malcolm X? The protagonist was actually Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American writer and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The Black History Week movement, initiated by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1915, was the beginning, and in 1976, President Gerald Ford declared Black History Month as a national holiday. In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating February as Black History Month to honor the protection of the rights of black people and respect their culture.
It is because the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (2/12), who had a significant impact on the emancipation of black slaves, and Frederick Douglass (2/14), an abolitionist, were both in February. Dr. Carter G. Woodson started the Black History Week movement, which evolved into Black History Month. It is a part of history, and we can make some guesses. It is about how black people lived before the emancipation of slaves in 1865 and how they inherited a miserable life and a harsh legacy. However, even after the emancipation of slaves, the lives of black people did not improve significantly. If we look back at the Red Summer (1919-1921), which occurred more than 50 years after the emancipation of slaves, we can see this.
In the summer of 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, African Americans, who used to live mainly in the South, began to flee to the East, Midwest, and West to escape daily violence and killings by white people. African Americans who settled on the South Side of Chicago were building their lives by starting work in meat processing factories. However, Irish Americans who lived right next to the black neighborhood attacked the black neighborhood, claiming that black people had taken away their jobs. They lynched and killed black people en masse and set fire to their businesses and homes. Looking at the photos from that time, it is horrific to see people who look like madmen, taking group photos in front of the bodies of black people they had beaten to death.
Two years later, in the summer of 1921, the largest riot in U.S. history occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On a summer day, a black shoe-shiner boy and a white woman were in the same elevator. The elevator shook for a moment, and the man accidentally touched the woman's body. When the woman screamed in surprise, white people around her accused the man of sexual assault, and a crowd of hundreds of white people quickly gathered and subjected him to brutal violence and torture. Although the woman testified that it was not sexual assault and that she was innocent, it was of no use. Dozens of black people gathered at the trial, but hundreds of white people, including KKK members and white supremacists, quickly gathered and lynched and killed black people en masse. At that time, about 6,000 black people were detained, over 800 were hospitalized, and the black neighborhood known as Black Wall Street in Tulsa was destroyed. Even the wealthy middle class, regardless of their social status, suffered violence, and about 300 people were killed.
Black Heritage = Braided Hair
These were events that happened just 100 years ago. As we look back on history, it is heartbreaking to see the deep scars that black people have suffered in their hearts for a long time, which still remain in their lives. As they modernize, we often think about how remarkable it is to see black people who strive to preserve their culture and heritage. Among them, the most prominent is braided hair. It is not just about hair, but it is a powerful cultural symbol and an artistic expression that has been passed down from generation to generation. Perhaps braided hair is the most artistic expression of their culture, expressing their roots and beauty.
Braided Hair also gained freedom!
In Dallas, Texas, the birthplace of EZBRAID, there is a woman named Isis Brantley. Since 1981, Isis has been emphasizing braiding and natural hair at her African Braiding Studio. Braiding was considered a sacred root and a spiritual and cultural act as an African. The studio, which provided braiding education and hair services, was successful. One day in 1995, a Texas cosmetology inspector came and informed Isis that a license was required to braid hair in Texas. To obtain the license, she had to complete 1,500 hours of training, including hair coloring and nail care, which would take nine months and cost thousands of dollars.
Braided hair is different from Western hairdressing techniques; it is cultural. It was the hair they had been doing since they were young, and it didn't make sense to them why they needed a license for this hair. However, it was useless, and she was fined $600. Fortunately, the fine was waived, and Isis continued her braiding education. Two years later, she was ultimately arrested on charges of unpaid fines and illegal enforcement.
After paying the fine and being released, Isis still couldn't understand why she had to have a cosmetology license to braid hair. She eventually filed a lawsuit. "Braiding is our belief and culture. I don't understand why there should be regulations on culture and religion." After a long legal battle, she won all the lawsuits in 2015, and she received a declaration that in Texas, braiding could be done without a cosmetology license. This was a gift to numerous black people and braiders, allowing them to continue the heritage of braiding.
The Lingering Pain and Homework
Racial discrimination is still our lingering homework. Three years ago, after the incident involving George Floyd in Minnesota, the Black Lives Matter movement and protests have continued. Perhaps it was the moment when emotions that had been accumulating due to invisible oppression and discrimination for decades finally exploded.
However, the excessive violence, looting, and the greed of those who threaten Korean American store owners every day have crossed the line. Will there ever be a day when it is not scary to leave a store open late and do business? Maybe culturally and temporally, we still need to wait a little longer. I hope that the rights and culture of black people, which have been suppressed in history, will be loved, allowing their beauty to become even more abundant.