This year's Black History Month theme, The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity, reminds us that Black experiences are not homogenous, nor are the legacies Black families can leave behind.

By Lynnette Nicholas
February 03, 2021

The 2021 Black History Month theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. It's a theme which emphasizes just how abstract notions of family can be and that the experiences of Black families in particular are not a monolith.

"The Black family knows no single location, since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents," explains the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. "The family offers a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American past and present."

An image of Magic and Cookie Johnson with their family.
Credit: Getty Images (1). Art: Jillian Sellers.

Without diverse depictions of the Black family, it's impossible to imagine the true scope of the contributions that Black people have made in American society. Sade Lythcott, CEO of the National Black Theatre in Harlem, also believes there is a healing power in embracing the idea of a "collective family" within our communities.

"I have always been taken by the vernacular of the Black Arts movement; introducing the terms Brother and Sister to refer to each other," says Lythcott. "Creating a unifying rallying call to our community that we are in fact more than neighbors, but family. This has always resonated as powerful medicine to me. Holistically reclaiming our agency in the making of our own destiny, in it together through whatever may come our way. That's power."

Being a Black family in America is not a homogenous experience. Yet, there are many famous Black families that have been deliberate about becoming pillars in American society, whether in the field of sports, entrepreneurship, performing arts, education, or politics. As we commemorate the contributions of Black men and women throughout Black History Month 2021, these husbands, wives, and parents can teach us both about the past and how to build a better future rooted in racial equality.

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