Lionel “Doc” Limage is a beloved member of the Fortune community. He enjoys playing the keyboard, writing songs and recording his own material. Doc is also a powerful and thoughtful poet and spoke about his personal experience with Black History Month.
Doc admits that he has struggled with the meaning of Black History Month and questions the way that Black history is often taught.
Doc also notes that the most celebrated figures in Black history are those that have faced very public struggles while fighting for equity and equality.
“When I’m thinking of Black history, it’s very difficult to find someone who didn’t have to fight for something,” he said. “We look at Nelson Mandela, but did you see the stuff he had to go through? We’ll talk about Martin Luther King. Jr., but did you see what happened to him? How about Malcolm X – same thing.”
While Doc appreciates the contributions that these great leaders made to the advancement of civil rights, he worries that there isn’t enough space in Black History Month to just simply celebrate Black people and their joy.
“We only celebrate those who overcame – those Black people who overcame their struggles. What we don’t recognize and don’t acknowledge are the many who did not overcome,” he explained. “People that didn’t overcome, that are just living their lives, just existing, still deserve to be celebrated. That’s the meat and potatoes [of Black history].”
He wishes for more celebration and acknowledgment of Black people who are making their way through everyday life and still meaningfully contributing to their communities. He thinks they could be even more inspirational for young Black people: “sometimes, seeing Nelson Mandela could inspire, but it also can intimidate people or neutralize someone into paralysis. The expectations feel too high for us.”
Doc also feels that looking to the past is not the only way, or even the best way, to understand how to move forward.
Celebrating Black History is about more than just celebrating Black figures who have been a part of American history, but by making broad, systemic changes in spaces that continue to shape American culture: “the rest of the year, you put me down. In the media, when I turn on the TV and I see Black lives being portrayed, for the most part, it’s nothing positive. It’s toxic. Let’s change that first.”
Doc would love to see a pivot towards celebrating Black life in every way and hopes that acknowledgment and respect of Black people won’t be confined to just one month in February.