Black History Month and a Park Steeped with It
Is it my place?
I asked myself this question quite a few times as I searched for an outdoor location with a story to celebrate Black History Month. The question wasn’t, “Is this place fitting?” or “Is this story interesting enough?” The question was, “Is it my place to tell this story?”
As a white person who wants to recognize her black friends’ struggles and triumphs in a history riddled with turmoil, I imagine some of them wonder what voice I should, or can, lend to the situation. That is, until I was talking with one of my friends last week, who happens to be black, about my new adventures. He reminded me that it’s Black History Month and I should create an episode in recognition of that. Did I need permission? Maybe. And now I had it.
What I remind myself too is that to struggle together is empowering, to be heard is empowering, and to be legitimized is empowering. If I haven’t endured the struggle, I can walk with others who have. And to be sure, this history is also part of my own to reckon with as an American.
I just happened upon Meridian Hill Park / Malcolm X Park in my online searches for Black History Month filming locations near me. The park was a hub of black activism in Washington, D.C. for 50 years. Just 6 miles from home, I hadn’t before heard of the park, yet I’ve passed the imposing 20-foot-high masonry wall that conceals it from 16th Street more than 100 times on my way to work events downtown. All the while, I hadn’t known that a green space full of life was just steps above.
I mostly expected the park to be subdued during a winter Saturday visit. To my happy surprise, folks were out and about, soaking in some sun on a chilly winter day. Young men balanced on ropes tied between trees, another one juggled, and a group of every color human gathered in a circle near the park terrace to beat on their drums in time together. The energy was electric.
It was at that point that I eased into my small role in honoring Black History Month. As I watched people from all walks of life dance together, I wondered at what point in history America finally embraced this cohesion. And who fought, and how hard, to make that happen? Who is still fighting, because there surely remains work to do? Whoever they were and are, I have them to thank for this rare winter day when brother- and sister-hood warm my heart in the cold winter air.
I hope you’ll join me on my humble adventure to Malcolm X Park to honor Black History Month 2021. And if your history and struggles are darker than mine, thank you for letting me share (in) your stories.
Thank you for joining me in celebrating Black History Month, and for joining me for future Ecopsyched! adventures.
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Meridian Hill Park is Malcolm X Park: Copyright © Lisa Barry 2021.
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