Every Jan. 1 brings with it a calendar year full of hope and optimism, marked by gatherings in restaurants, homes, and bars on Dec. 31 to usher in and celebrate the New Year.
For Black Americans, however, the significance of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day goes beyond the festivities; it is a fabric woven with threads of history and culture. Culture is a cumulative reflection of our experiences, heritage, and lineage, passed down through generations.
For many Black Americans, the cultural significance of New Year’s Eve is rooted in the tradition of Watch Night. This practice, dating back to Dec. 31, 1862, holds historical importance when freed Blacks in the Union States gathered to pray for the liberation of enslaved Blacks in Confederate states.
Simultaneously, thousands of enslaved Blacks prayed on plantations, awaiting President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. Dec. 31 became synonymous with Freedom’s Eve, as freed and enslaved Blacks, along with White abolitionists, ‘watched’ in anticipation for the proclamation that would symbolize freedom from slavery.
While the Watch Night service endures in Black churches, the historical context is often lost over time. The Emancipation Proclamation, while a significant symbolic act, had limited impact on the immediate liberation of enslaved Blacks, as it applied only to Confederate territories beyond Union control.
Even events like General Sherman ‘gifting’ Savannah to President Lincoln in 1864 were more focused on economic considerations, particularly the value of cotton as currency, than on the liberation of Blacks. However, the by-product of the war was freedom for many, and this legacy is observed annually in Gullah Geechee tradition with Jubilee Freedom Day on Dec. 21.
Economics continued to shape the narrative in January 1865, as Black clergy in Savannah, recognizing its importance for a newly freed people, sought 40 acres of land from General Sherman.
The radical request at Charles Green’s mansion revealed that nine of the 20 Black clergy were only free due to Union forces liberating them following the Emancipation Proclamation. In essence, New Year’s Eve and Day for Black Americans hold a profound historical and cultural resonance, reminding us of the struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs that shape the community’s collective identity.
With the dawn of each new year, we carry an invigorated sense of hope, determination and bold ambition for what is possible in the coming months. Yet, for Black Americans, the prospects of the new year are also laced with an enduring reminder of our collective and historical resilience, and of the continuous fight for social justice, equity and inclusion.
Every 31st December, it is customary to reflect on the year gone by, size up our successes and failures, while simultaneously setting tangible goals for the months that lie ahead. We spend the night with family and friends, indulging in scrumptious food, loud festivities, and celebratory countdowns to mark the new year. …
The truth about Black mental health and success Discussing issues around mental health carries with it a great deal of stigma, shame, and social discomfort, not least when individuals are being as brutally honest and transparent as many Black people have been recently.
From the consequences of systemic racism and decades of oppression within American society, Black people develop a resilience innately different than the average person because of issues left unchecked in the Race Riots.
As we rush about our daily lives, seldom do we take a moment to check in with ourselves and engage in an authentic exploration of our thoughts and feelings. It is not uncommon for us to shove emotions down to continue with our daily hustles. Our childhoods and careers have taught us that it is only through pushing on — no matter what the circumstances — that we can survive and succeed. …
NO MORE BEING THE TOKEN BLACK AMERICAN AT YOUR OFFICE Many Black Americans have had no choice but to become accustomed to an uncomfortable weight imposed by society.
Adopted children of the United States, we live simultaneously in the center — integrated, successful, and as “privileged” as portrayed by current political norms — yet endlessly marginalized, hurt, and excluded unless we assimilate and betray our personal identities. We internalize the prejudice, often developing unconscious biases that lead us to expect discrimination from our colleagues and superiors in the workplace.
Rather than challenging it, this behavior only reaffirms our secondary status as Americans. We shrug off the discomfort of being the only Black colleague in the office, often speaking experience because of the lack of the representation that we deserve. … Cultural Obstacles There comes a time in everyone’s life where we inevitably feel ‘stuck’.
For Black Americans this feeling is doubled since they are simultaneously straddling cultural obstacles within the country that were never driven by, or designed for, them — or at least without their inclusion in higher management.
All of this can be daunting for those working exclusively in white dominant work places. Navigating one’s own private acumen is often approached with caution, as if too much Blackness in the workplace can suddenly become uncomfortable, crippling your career.
Having worked in industries such as tech and media, I was often in board and conference rooms where I was the only Black woman. Surrounded by people from different walks of life reinforced in me that there was no community around me to relate. Every time I experienced a conversation, full of my Blackness, anger or passion — it was not received well. It was frowned upon as “aggression”. …