The month of February is designated as Black History month and a time to reflect on the history of African Americans, recognize the struggle for equality that African Americans have faced and continue to face, and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans throughout history.
This is the first in a series of personal perspectives on Black history and Black History Month from Blount County residents.
Driven by love of family and passionate about community, Diane Lee (right) moved to Blount County to be near her son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters. Since moving to Oneonta six years ago, Lee continues on with her mission — having a presence in Blount County while setting a positive example for her grandchildren.
Lee has had a “presence” and left a mark in each of the places she’s called home throughout the years. In Chicago, she opened the first shelter for battered women and the first hospital-based crisis intervention program for those women who were seeking help. During her 25 years in Atlanta, Lee became a spokesperson for battered women as well as worked as a case manager for Georgia Child Protective Services.
Today, Lee’s plan and purpose is “to have her grandchildren share her experience as the life of a Black woman who tries to make a positive impact in society.” Since moving here, Lee has volunteered and assumed several leadership positions, including serving as a local board member for several organizations.
Last fall, Lee spoke at a unity rally where she encouraged and challenged people of all backgrounds to come together as “one Oneonta and a better Blount County.”
by Diane McCoy Lee
Call it my own personal protest. Black history is part of American history. It should be acknowledged and taught as such 365 days of the year, not just celebrated during the shortest month of the year.
In my all-girls Catholic high school, I was an A student. However, history was a subject that I struggled with. My history teacher, Mother Peter Claver was also responsible for our forensic or speech team. We competed with schools throughout the state of Illinois, and I brought home first or second place trophies at every competition. We had to maintain a B average to remain on the team, but I couldn’t remember historic events, names, dates, or places to save my life. So, Mother Peter Claver let me give speeches to the class to keep my grades up.
As an adult, I questioned why I had trouble memorizing events in history when I could easily memorize a three-page speech overnight. I came to the conclusion that I had a mental block because I didn’t see me or people who looked like me reflected in the history I was being taught. If Black people were not represented, my young mind saw no relevance for that history in my life.
Our history should be told in its entirety lest we have generations of young people who don’t see themselves as part of the fabric this country is made of. The good, the bad, and the ugly should be included in the history taught to our children in school. The horrors of slavery, segregation, and lynching should all be acknowledged as wrong, but nevertheless American history. The accomplishments of Black people that helped make this the great country that it is today need to be taught as part of American history.
As a Black American I proudly celebrate Black history 365 days a year, not just during the month of February.