Black History Month is observed in February and Spirit FM, the radio ministry of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL, is featuring Saint Leo University faculty member Dr. Ebony Perez in a series of conversations on the How We See It program to discuss the month and its impact.
Perez, chair of Saint Leo's undergraduate social work program spoke with John Morris, station manager of WBVM-FM, 90.5. He said the program is examining "reasons why we celebrate Black History Month and the influences we see in social and mainstream media."
Tune in to hear the first interview at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, February 11. It will also air at 6 a.m. Saturday, February 13, and 8:30 a.m., Sunday, February 14. The second program and interview with Saint Leo's Perez will air at 11:30 a.m., February 18; 6 a.m., Saturday, February 20, and 8:30 a.m., February 21. In addition to being broadcast on the radio and online at myspiritfm.com the program will be posted at How We See It.
"One of the questions we should we be asking ourselves is, 'Why is this not incorporated into our American history story?'" Perez said. "Black history is American history. There are a lot of voices left out of the American history story."
Perez told Morris that individuals need to take responsibility for learning more and for teaching their children and grandchildren about the contributions of Blacks throughout all of history. "Take advantage of the resources we have now," she said. "We need to do our due diligence as citizens to understand the fullness of our history."
Morris noted that there has been progress in the ways Blacks are portrayed in the media and that there have been great strides in Black and white partnerships. "But how can we together move forward?" he asked.
"When we're talking about race relations, racism, I often think of it as a wound," Perez said. "It's kind of been covered up, and every so often, you peel back the scab just a little bit, but we haven't done the hard work of debriding it, so it can heal from the inside. That's on us. We have to be willing to step into the fear and not be controlled by fear, but be controlled by faith and come into the conversation or situation of love and understanding and unity. That can be a difficult space for both Black people and white people."
But conversations are key to understanding, Perez said. And this applies to all facets of life including history, TV, movies, social media, sports, and churches, Morris noted.
"As believers in Christ, we need to ask, 'Why do our churches still look segregated when we know that for a fact that heaven is not going to be that way?'" Perez said. "And if we're to be that representation on earth, we have some work to do. The Catholic Church, and the Diocese of St. Petersburg have been doing a lot of work, and not just in the past year or so. That is encouraging. They're saying 'OK, folks, we got this race thing wrong and, as believers in Christ, we need to be something differently.'"
Perez said it's important to build relationships in our neighborhoods and in our community. "Are you willing to make that effort to get to know someone who may look [on the surface] different than you?" she said.
That is Perez' hope. "That is my dream for all of us in America, for the world," she said. "It doesn't have to be this divided thing, this divided nature. We can move closer. I truly believe in people. I believe in the hearts of individuals and that we can do better."