Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress.
Barack Obama was the first Black man to serve as President of the United States.
Althea Gibson was the first Black woman to win a Grand Slam Tournament.
Bayard Rustin organized and strategized alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., more notably leading the efforts to structure the March on Washington.
The above facts are just a tiny drop in the bucket of history related to Black people and their contributions to America and the world. From the halls of academia to the entertainment industry, tech and business, and any other sector in between – no space exists without the imprint of Black people.
For some, the range of excellence is held tightly in the short month of February. According to the NAACP, the month started as Negro History Week in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson. The week would eventually develop into Black History Month and be federally recognized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford.
And while the world pauses to celebrate each year, and rightfully so, some wholeheartedly believe that Black History cannot and should not be bound to a single month. Ryan Wilson, the co-founder of The Gathering Spot (TGS), agrees with this sentiment.
Starting in 2023, Wilson and his TGS team launched the Black History Is Alive initiative to go beyond the 28-day mark to highlight and tell the stories of changemakers in its community throughout the year.
Wilson is known as a curator of Black community gatherings and an advocate for the advancement of people of color, so this initiative as it relates to Black celebration is personal for him.
“I look at Black History Month as a way to reclaim narratives of the stuff that has happened in the community, and again, I use it as a launchpad to talk about what should or could happen next,” Wilson explained to AfroTech.
Celebrating Black history every day is not a new concept. Many can recall the efforts of Tom Joyner and his Black 365 campaign. Leveraging the legacy of such work gives TGS a chance to have recurring celebrations and recognize efforts beyond what has already happened, but also put a keen focus on what is possible in the future.
“It’s talking about what a Black future looks like in conjunction with our Black history, right? We spend the majority of the month celebrating the figures and movements that have been important to us, but we want to really imagine what our future looks like,” Wilson said.
“Again, we use the word alive on purpose because it isn’t about trying to suggest that the work is stopped, it’s a living, moving thing. So, that’s what we’re doing during Black History Month. We’re talking about the people that are doing the work right now and again, imagining what our future looks like together,” Wilson continued.
Wilson is a businessman and father, so the Black History Is Alive initiative largely is work he does for his family. He refuses to give up on championing Black people and their daily work to society, especially when Black history is being erased from classrooms and public spaces.
“We’re having discussions about our books being removed, our education being removed from the classroom. We can’t afford to tell anybody that we are tired to the point where you can remove our history from the classroom, and we’re [just] gonna sit here and say, ‘I’m exhausted.’ Like, I’m not saying I’m not frustrated. Sure. I’m not saying that it is not tiring, but I’m not going to quit.”
As Black History Is Alive proceeds, programming will include conversations at TGS that engage Black people across all backgrounds. And while the work does not end in February, the month will conclude with The Gathering Spot holding its second annual Black Excellence Awards ceremony to honor this year’s visionaries within its community.