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Why am I here? That’s a tough question for me or anyone else to ask themselves and then truthfully answer. And I’ve come a long way — from China — to ask it and discover the answer.

I never thought that I would find myself at UCI, or at any college for that matter. I was not a particularly good student in middle school — I was a bad student actually. Dramas with girls and conflicts with guys began at that time, right on schedule. I struggled with myself and my parents and friends about all these problems. And that gave me a nice excuse to keep right on being a bad student during my first year of high school.

But then things abruptly changed. My parents told me I would have to finish high school in Alabama, of all places. I didn’t like the idea at all at the time, but now I realize I have my parents to thank for forcing this upon me, because that was the point at which my whole future changed: at age sixteen, I had to grow up, to sink or swim.

With the start of my American life, I faced alone the cultural shock of dealing with an entirely new kind of high-school world. I started to pay attention in class, and to go to church every weekend. I recognized how much pressure my parents felt for me to succeed, how much expectation their own world was putting on them.  The clarity of this insight made me feel reborn, and I began to face all the things that the young have to face sooner or later: that we are not put on this earth free of responsibility. We have to pull our own weight.

I’ve now spent four years of my life in the United States. As a sophomore at UCI, I’ve came a long way to be where I am today. My freshman year began in the summer of 2013. I started with the Academic English program. I’ve taken four different courses in the program in order to get to the 39 Series, which, with its essays and deadlines, really challenged me.  But all good effort is rewarded, and last quarter I finished the 39 Series and entered the 39A Series. However, I also had to take Math 2B. Mathematics is hard on English majors, and I am no exception. I spent so much time working with numbers that I only got a C- working with words.     That was a shock. I was so rattled by it that I just decided to double down and apply to retake English 39A. Unfortunately, all of those classes were full. That was a very real problem, because if I could not retake the course that quarter, my parents would have to foot the bill for another one. But as I mentioned above, all good effort is rewarded. I persisted, finally meeting Abbey an accommodating instructor who enrolled me in her class.

So, why am I here? At the most basic level, I’m here to get a better grade in the 39A Series. And I’m here to graduate with a high GPA. But more broadly, I’m here to train myself to become a better me . I’m here to become someone who will meet and uphold all the responsibilities of my family. I’m here to earn the faith that my parents had, and have, in me. I’m here to prepare for all the things I can and must prepare for before can I step into another real world — a new world where I will have to grow up, all over again, right on schedule.

All good effort is rewarded.

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Life’s Big Questions: Why Am I Here?

why am i here in this world essay

Shiao Chong

A question that surfaces in different forms..

Why am I here?

Photo: Jakob Owens

What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose in life? What can I contribute to the world? Will I be remembered after I die? These questions essentially ask the same thing: Why am I here? And it is a question that surfaces in different forms through different stages in life. It may be, “What am I going to be when I grow up?” Or it may take the form of “What should my major or career be?” Or the question could even be, “Am I happy with what I have done in my life thus far?” In these varied forms, this may well be the number one question that haunts everyone’s life.

Sometimes, the question comes in moments of crisis or despair. In fact, the answers some people give to this question are cause for despair! For instance, Samuel Beckett wrote a play called Breath that lasts all of 35 seconds. It begins with a dark stage. Then you hear the sound of a newborn baby’s cry, followed by a breath being drawn slowly in. Simultaneously, the lights slowly go up on the stage to reveal a pile of garbage. Then, the breath is slowly let out and the lights go dim until the stage is in darkness again. There’s a second cry, and the play is over. Beckett’s message seems pretty clear: Life is garbage, over in a single breath. For Beckett, life is meaningless. There is no purpose to our individual lives.

Most of us, however, do not agree with Beckett. Most of us feel there is more to life than mere biological existence and survival. But the play as a metaphor is how I would like to approach the “Why am I here?” question.

William Shakespeare once wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances” ( As You Like It ). Seeing ourselves as actors on a world stage playing out the script of our lives is helpful in one way—it helps us see the relevance and role of Scripture in our lives.

Every play has a story or a plot that makes sense of the series of events in the play. There’s a beginning, middle, and end to every story, usually with a conflict or tension that the characters need to resolve. Many philosophers, theologians, and psychologists today recognize the importance of narrative or story in our lives. Whether deliberately or unconsciously, we choose to tie together the different events or occurrences in our lives into a meaningful and coherent plot or story. We often look back at our history and mark certain cause and effects—if I hadn’t went to this university I wouldn’t have met my spouse, for instance, or if we hadn’t chose to move to this city our lives would be much happier, etc. Weaving all the seemingly random and different events in our lives into a story gives them meaning and purpose. All of us, therefore, live out of some big story.

God’s revelation to us in the Bible can be seen as telling us a big story that all of us can live by. It’s a big story that gives meaning to all of our lives that helps answer, “Why am I here?” Theologian N. T. Wright suggests that the Bible can be seen as a big story or play in five acts ( The New Testament and the People of God, 1992). Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh, building on Wright’s idea, divide the Bible into six acts ( Truth is Stranger Than It Used to Be, 1995). I summarize the six acts as follows:

Act 1: Creation. God creates a beautiful world in perfect harmony, unity amid diversity, loving relationships of interdependence. And God created human beings, male and female, to relate to him in loving communion and to relate to the world, as God’s representatives, in loving communion as well.

Act 2: Alienation. But this perfect world didn’t last. Human beings, seduced by the anti-god way of life, chose to play God instead of being content with their roles as humans. They broke the harmony in the world. They turned interdependent relationships into oppressive and domineering relations. By playing God to the world and to themselves, human beings distorted their proper relationships to God and to the environment. As a result, they have alienated themselves from God and the environment. Hostility, rather than love, marks all our relationships.

Act 3: Reconciliation, Part I. God, however, did not remain silent and did not choose to leave us to our own self-destructive ways. God decides to bring about reconciliation from this alienation we have created. In his reconciliation plan, God chose to invite humans to cooperate with him. God starts with one couple, Abraham and Sarah, and through them He creates the nation of Israel, whose job is to bring healing, restoration, and reconciliation to the world on God’s behalf.

Act 4: Reconciliation, Part II. In this act, God’s reconciliation plan reaches its climax. God wrote himself into the play, as it were, in the person of Jesus Christ. And Christ’s death on the cross was the ultimate act of forgiveness and reconciliation for the world.

Act 6: Renewed Creation. In the final act, God’s reconciliation project reaches its completion and the whole creation—humanity, animals, and plants—are reconciled into harmonious living again. Broken relationships are healed. Everyone is, once again, playing their proper roles in the drama of life, in loving interdependent relationships. However, this final act, in one sense, is not the end but is only the beginning.

You may have noticed that I have already touched on these themes in my previous three articles responding to the questions: who am I, where am I, and what’s wrong? You may have also noticed that I left out Act 5. This is because Act 5 is not finished. Act 5 is still being written today by us.

In the movie Dead Poets Society (1989), a controversial English Literature teacher, John Keating, shakes up a New England prep school for boys in the 1950s. One day, Keating (played by Robin Williams) quotes a Walt Whitman poem to his students: “O me! O life! . . . of the questions of these recurring; Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities filled with the foolish; What good amid these, O me, O life?” As the students listen transfixed, Keating continues, “Answer: That you are here—that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” As the final words sink in, Keating looks at his students and asks, “And what will your verse be?”

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse,” is what God invites us Christians, who live by the biblical story, to do. We are invited to contribute to the script that is the drama of, not only our individual lives, but of the world, of our human race. N. T. Wright puts it like this: suppose we discovered a previously unknown play of Shakespeare’s and the newly found manuscript is missing one act, Act 5. What could we do? One way is to get the world’s most experienced Shakespearean actors together and get them to immerse themselves into the rest of the play, Acts 1 through 6 (without 5) until it becomes second nature to them. All the play’s themes, emphases, character values, direction, vision for life or truth become embodied in these actors. With that, these actors can improvise Act 5 when they act out the play. Of course, in their improvisation, these actors would improvise the story in such a way that it remains true to the previous Acts 1 to 4 and somehow connects with the final Act 6.

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Similarly, Christians who live by the biblical story are asked to improvise in Act 5 of the cosmic drama. God has revealed to us the framework, the overall plot, the big picture of how the story goes. We need, therefore, to immerse ourselves into this story, into Acts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, so that it becomes second nature to us. And we start improvising, contributing our verses to the play, in a manner that is true and loyal to the overall story, continuing Acts 1 to 4 and connecting with the final Act 6. In this way, we are co-writers with God of not only our own life story but of the big story of the universe.

So, to the question, “Why am I here?” there is no narrow specific answer for every individual person. There is, however, an overall big story answer in which we can each improvise within it. We have the big story of the Bible that helps us see the overall meaning of life and the overall direction that human history has taken and will take. We have clues within this biblical story that tells us what the major themes are: “Love your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength. Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30–31). “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Other Christian actors from the past have made their contributions to Act 5, and we can learn from them. For instance, the Westminster Catechism of the seventeenth century asks, “What is the chief end of humanity?” and answers, “Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

These general guidelines give us freedom to improvise, as long as our improvisation remains faithful to the big picture story, to its main themes, helped along by the insights of the Christian actors who have gone before us. Many Christians before us have contributed to God’s reconciliation efforts. For instance, think of the legacy of Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. Or great Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Abraham Kuyper, etc. Or thousands of others who are lesser known but equally contributed to Act 5.

So, why are you here? Well, to answer that, you will have to answer for yourself, what will your verse be?

The beauty of this, for me, is the great freedom God gives us. We are not fixed to a narrow, previously scripted role that we have to somehow decipher and act out accordingly or else our lives are “screwed up”! No, God is much more gracious than that. God gives us the freedom to improvise, to feel our way along, to make our own contributions to the big story that he has written and is writing.

In all of this, the great Master Artist God is still in full artistic control of the whole thing, as the ending, Act 6 is already written. This not only gives us freedom but also gives us relief. We are not burdened with the near impossible task of writing Act 6, of making the final chapter a reality. God has that covered. We are not asked to create heaven on earth; God will do that in his own time. Our responsibility is to be faithful and to contribute toward Act 6. Act 6 depends on God, not on us.

Despite the freedom and the relief, however, you might still feel intimidated or insignificant. You might say, what can I do? What verse can I contribute? How can anything I do be significant? Well, two of Jesus’ parables are always an encouragement to me: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. . . . The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened” (Matthew 13:31–33).

Contributing to God’s kingdom, making verses or improvisations that connect to the renewed creation of Act 6, is like small mustard seeds or yeast, seemingly insignificant in size, yet grows into havens for birds or spreads, silently and invisibly, into all the flour. We cannot judge our lives simply by our human standards. It may seem small and insignificant to us but in God’s mysterious ways our lives are mustard seeds or yeast that grows or multiplies and make significant, if not essential, contributions to the big story.

So, do not dread the question, “Why am I here?” but embrace it with excitement, as a challenge, just as an actor takes up the challenge of improvising Act 5 in the world’s most brilliant play. But you do this not to show off, but to be faithful to the integrity of the story. In short, live your life by the biblical story, to glorify God and to enjoy God in all that you do.

  • October 1, 2004

Mr. Shiao Chong is the Christian Reformed Chaplain serving at York University.

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Why Am I Here?


Why Am I Here? - The Atheistic Worldview Why I am here? Well, if God doesn't exist, that means that life must have come about through some natural impersonal, unintelligent, and ultimately purposeless process. That means we're ultimately as purposeless as the very process which brought us into existence. Life's just an accident and so are you. You can find short term reasons for living like you're here because your parents wanted to have children, etc., but ultimately you're just an accident and so are your parents. Life is one big accident. You serve no purpose, you'll cause no lasting effect, and in the grand scheme of things your life is utterly meaningless. Without a Creator in the beginning, there was nobody around to put you here on purpose which means you aren't here for a reason. It's that simple. As far as asking "what am I worth," without God we don't actually have an intrinsic value, at least not an objective one. Our worth is ultimately subjective. You might think you're worth something but someone else might think you're worthless, and as long as there's no transcendent Assessor to have the final say, no one's ultimately right or wrong. In fact, without God there's really no such thing as right or wrong. John Dewey (1859-1952), the famous 20th century atheist explained, "There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes." 1 Philosophers generally agree: without an absolute God to make the rules, there is no such thing as a moral absolute; there are only preferences. You don't actually have a right to live; you just prefer not to die. Someone else on the other hand might want to kill you regardless of how you feel about it, and who is to say that they're wrong? In the absence of absolute morality, power reigns supreme; the strong survive and the weak get exploited. Thankfully most governments see it as their duty to uphold what they see as your God-given right to live, and governments also happen to be the strongest institution among men (which means they can enforce morality upon those who don't necessarily agree with your right to live). The founders of the United States of America put it well when they declared, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…" Unfortunately, some governments don't share this worldview and their people suffer terribly for it.

Why Am I Here? - The Theistic Worldview Why am I here? Well, if God does exist, that means He is ultimate reality. If He created you for a reason, that's ultimately why your here. If you're valuable to Him, that's ultimately what you're worth. What He says is right is absolutely right and what He says is wrong is absolutely wrong. We may be free moral agents with the freedom to make moral decisions, but that doesn't mean we can choose what actually is right or wrong; that just means we're capable of choosing to be right or wrong. God makes the rules. The question is: will He enforce them? Will God ever hold us accountable for our moral decisions? The prevailing instinct among the majority seems to be that, yes, God will hold us accountable. It's as if most people instinctually know that one day they're going to have to explain all the bad things they've done (which of course means that they also instinctually know that there is such a thing as moral absolutes). The point is, if God really does exist, terms like "justice," "purpose," and "morality" aren't abstract notions: God has a purpose for you (that's why He made you), He's the one who instituted morality, and in the end He'll see that justice prevails. That's a comforting thought to some, but it's terrifying to others. So don't begin by asking, "Why am I here?" Begin by asking, "Does God exist?" If He doesn't exist there's really no point in asking "why am I here?" - everything is ultimately pointless. And if He does exist, you'll discover your reason for living when you discover who He is. So begin at the beginning. Does God exist?

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Footnote: 1 Clifton Fadiman, ed., Living Philosophies: The Reflections of Some Eminent Men and Women of Our Time, New York: Simon Schuster, 1931.

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why am i here in this world essay

Why Am I Here?

Why are we on earth? What’s our purpose? What is the meaning of life? How do we know if this is where we’re supposed to be?

Though the Bible urges us to follow God’s plan for our lives (see  Joshua 22:5 ), discovering God’s plan can seem insurmountable. At times we wish we had a detailed road map to follow that would outline every major decision of our lives. But such a map, if it existed, would stand in the way of faith and daily dependency on God.

So what is God’s plan for you? The Bible outlines several things that reveal his plan for all his children: God desires that you love him (see  Deuteronomy 6:5 ), obey him (see  Deuteronomy 6:24 ), grow in faith (see  1 Thessalonians 4:3 ), develop gifts to serve the church (see  1 Corinthians 12:4 – 7 ), do good works for others (see  Ephesians 2:10 ), remain sexually pure (see  1 Thessalonians 4:3 ), remain free from the love of money (see  Hebrews 13:5 ) and share the good news of Jesus with others (see  Matthew 28:18 – 20 ). Though you may be seeking guidance on where the next step on your life journey should lead, you can be certain that God’s Word will never lead you away from these things.

You can discern more about God’s plan through the reading of the Bible, through the wise counsel of others and through stewardship and development of your God-given gifts. Above all else, be faithful in prayer as you present your questions to God and depend on him to direct you. He’s promised to lead you in the right direction: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ ” ( Isaiah 30:21 ).

Here are some additional thoughts about God’s Plan from the Bible.

Our Identity and Purpose in Life

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  –  2 Corinthians 5:18 – 21

In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us what our role in the world is as Christians. We must be ambassadors for Christ on earth, showing his love for humanity as revealed in the gospel. Just as we were reconciled to God through faith in Christ, so too others can be reconciled to God as God uses us to share with them the message of reconciliation.

Following God’s plan for our lives means that we mirror the example of the apostles, sharing the Good News with others and showing them our good works by example. Just as Jesus commanded the apostles to trust in God as they became leaders of men and women, so too must we trust in God to help us do the right thing. Being Christians is about more than just going to church on Sundays — God’s plan requires Christians to be ambassadors for Christ, all seven days of the week and every day of the year. Our love for Christ should be evident in our hearts and be expressed through our words and deeds

We Were Born to Serve

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  –  Galatians 6:10

When we think about God’s plan for our lives, we often end up wondering about a different question entirely: What about our own plans for our lives? We fantasize about who we’re supposed to marry, what job we’re supposed to take, where we’re supposed to live, or what other elements of life we should pursue for our happiness.

What we forget is that God’s plan for us is far greater than our own. God tells us throughout the Bible that we are born to serve him. This life of service means that we must love others and attend to their needs. God calls us to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving toward each other (see  Ephesians 4:32 ). Part of God’s plan for us is serving others in the way he’s outlined for us. Just as the Good Samaritan helped the man in need in Jesus’ parable (see  Luke 10:25 – 37 ), we too must follow Christ’s example and obediently help those who need us most.

Value People

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  –  John 3:16

While we are called to the mission of being ambassadors for Christ in this world, God’s plan for us extends far beyond what we do here on earth. He has called us to come home to his kingdom to live with him in eternity. We learn in the Gospel of John that God’s plan for us is born out of love, a love so strong that he sacrificed his only Son — Jesus Christ — in order to redeem us. Though we may worry about tomorrow — whether we’ll get a job, whether we’ll meet that special someone — God’s concern for us is much greater. God’s love for us means that his plan for us is one of eternal salvation. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (see  Romans 3:23 ), but the Holy Spirit calls us to receive God’s love and to share it with others.

Content from this article is drawn from study features in the  NIV Essentials of the Christian Faith, New Testament .

Essentials of the Christian Faith

NIV Essentials of the Christian Faith, New Testament

The  NIV Essentials of the Christian Faith, New Testament  is perfect for outreach and evangelism. It includes specially written articles that give an overview of fourteen key tenets of the Christian faith, such as  Who Is God?, Why Go to Church?, What Is Faith?  and  What Is God’s Plan for Me?

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Have you ever asked yourself this question “Why am I here”?


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why am i here in this world essay

For as long as I can remember, I have been wondering “Why am I here?” . When teachers at school asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would answer “I want to be happy” . But, this is not a job. So, as my fellow students, I went to school, and since I had good grades, I went to University to do some engineering without really knowing “Why am I here?” . Does it seem similar to you?

I struggled a lot with the lessons that I didn’t like because I didn’t see the point. I finally succeeded in having my engineering degree, yes… But, then, what? Did I have some clue then about “Why am I here”? Nope . Still no answer.

So I followed the general path, and found a job. Then, another one. I had the feeling that my life was meaningless. I spent hours looking at my screen computer, saying to myself, “there has to be something else…” . Motivation and concentration went down bit by bit, pressure and stress went up, so much that one day… I couldn’t pretend anymore . My body and my brain told me to stop . After one more year, switching back and forth between being on sick leave and going to work, I finally quit my job .

During this previous year, I had some time to wonder “Why am I here?” . I had gotten an interest into personal development few years beforehand, and as I was in a quest to discover the meaning of my life, I was interested with happiness, habits, productivity, well-being, and life purpose. I was really into it, spending hours reading books, articles, doing online training, webinars, seminars… I learnt a lot and I applied it to my life. I was in my element when doing this. And I had lots of positives results .

So when I quit my job, I decided that, yes, it was time for me to start something meaningful. I have tested numerous things in my own life, some didn’t work, and some had a really positive impact. This is why I decided to talk about my own struggles and experiences in life in order to help those who are struggling now and wondering “Why am I here?” .

It has only been 6 months since I have launched my website, but for the first time in my life, I finally know “Why I am here” . I found my path in this world and my goal is to make others find their own. But this all starts with one small yet so important thing: you have to LOVE yourself first . Everything comes from this. You have the power. You are able to do whatever you want. You are able to be whoever you want. But you have to believe in yourself. You have to trust yourself.

Life is not a bed of roses and we do struggle a lot just to survive here. Yet the purpose of life is not to “survive” but to really “live your life at the best”.

I now aim at making a difference and informing as many as I can about the fact that everything is possible. Because if “I” have succeeded in finding my place here, everyone can do the same. It won’t be easy, for sure, but the journey that will lead you to your real deserved place is full of good experiences, people and growth.

You deserve to show the world your potential because, yes, even if you don’t believe so yet, you HAVE potential, you have a really great potential. But much like the seed lost in the desert, you need the right environment to blossom. You need to move and to create these good surroundings for yourself. No one will ever do it for you. You have to be the creator of your life. If you want things to change, YOU have to change.

And I will do all that I can to help you find your special quality, your special talent and potential.

Believe in yourself, trust life and never forget about your dreams. I will bet that soon, you too will know “why you are here” .

Black History Month: What is it and why is it important?

Black History Month - A visitor at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories. Image:  Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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This article was originally published in February 2021 and has been updated .

  • A continued engagement with history is vital as it helps give context for the present.
  • Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement.
  • This year's theme is African Americans and the Arts.

February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change. Here's what to know about Black History Month and how to celebrate it this year:

Have you read?

Black history month: key events in a decade of black lives matter, here are 4 ways businesses can celebrate black history month, how did black history month begin.

Black History Month's first iteration was Negro History Week, created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of Black history." This historian helped establish the field of African American studies and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History , aimed to encourage " people of all ethnic and social backgrounds to discuss the Black experience ".

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” ― Carter G. Woodson

His organization was later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and is currently the oldest historical society established for the promotion of African American history.

Why is Black History Month in February?

February was chosen by Woodson for the week-long observance as it coincides with the birthdates of both former US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery. Woodson also understood that members of the Black community already celebrated the births of Douglass and Lincoln and sought to build on existing traditions. "He was asking the public to extend their study of Black history, not to create a new tradition", as the ASALH explained on its website.

How did Black History Month become a national month of celebration?

By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil-rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week was celebrated by mayors in cities across the country. Eventually, the event evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History month. In his speech, President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

Since his administration, every American president has recognized Black History Month and its mission. But it wasn't until Congress passed "National Black History Month" into law in 1986 that many in the country began to observe it formally. The law aimed to make all Americans "aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity".

Why is Black History Month celebrated?

Initially, Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans' contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative.

Now, it's seen as a celebration of those who've impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements. In the US, the month-long spotlight during February is an opportunity for people to engage with Black histories, go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlight Black leaders and accomplishments.

What is this year's Black History Month theme?

Every year, a theme is chosen by the ASALH, the group originally founded by Woodson. This year's theme, African Americans and the Arts .

"In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount," the website says.

Is Black History Month celebrated anywhere else?

In Canada, they celebrate it in February. In countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Ireland, they celebrate it in October. In Canada, African-Canadian parliament member Jean Augustine motioned for Black History Month in 1995 to bring awareness to Black Canadians' work.

When the UK started celebrating Black History Month in 1987, it focused on Black American history. Over time there has been more attention on Black British history. Now it is dedicated to honouring African people's contributions to the country. Its UK mission statement is: "Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger".

Why is Black History Month important?

For many modern Black millennials, the month-long celebration for Black History Month offers an opportunity to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead. But for many, the forces that drove Woodson nearly a century ago are more relevant than ever. As Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian Institution said at the opening of the Washington D.C.'s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honouring our struggle and ancestors by remembering".

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