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What sharing a birthday with Rosa Parks taught me about celebrating being Black

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free ... so other people would be also free.” —Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks At Work
Artist and writer Morgan Harper Nichols reflects on sharing a birthday with civil rights hero Rosa Parks, pictured here while working as a seamstress in February 1956, shortly after the start of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.Don Cravens / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

When I was about 5 years old, my mother informed me that I shared the same birthday with Rosa Parks. I was homeschooled, and I can still remember sitting at my little desk near the kitchen, looking at a black and white photograph of the civil rights activist and knowing that we shared a special connection.

Every time my birthday would roll around on Feb. 4, I would imagine Rosa Parks — when she was still alive — sitting with those who were close to her and celebrating as I did. I always felt that I had celebrated life with her from a distance, and I still do to this day. 

Author Morgan Harper Nichols is grateful to share a birthday with Rosa Parks.
Author Morgan Harper Nichols is grateful to share a birthday with Rosa Parks.Thomas A Ventura

Sharing a birthday with someone might be a small thing, but it’s one of those things you always remember. You feel a special connection with that person even if you’ve never met them. For me, sharing a birthday with this brave ancestor right at the beginning of Black History Month always reminds me that this is a time to celebrate.

This is the beauty of Black History Month. It’s so much more than just educating and making others aware of all the things Black people have done and are doing. It’s about honoring those who came before us and celebrating who we are. 

There are times when, as a Black person, being on the receiving end of Black History Month content and literature can feel forced. With racial tensions failing to cease and many Black people still struggling to feel seen and heard in many spaces, Black History Month ends up feeling more like work — more about educating and raising awareness than about taking the time to honor and celebrate who we are as people. As someone who writes, makes art and shares publicly with the world on a regular basis, it can feel like a month-long assignment to bring the whole world on-board to all things Black History. 

Author Danté Stewart shared an Instagram post this week about how Black History Month should not be about “making white people ‘get it,’” but about “loving black people.”

He went on to say in the post that “educating us is not the same thing as loving us.” He also quoted Toni Morrison, who said, “I am writing for black people … I don’t have to apologize for that.”

Book cover for "Peace Is a Practice" by Morgan Harper Nichols
Morgan Harper Nichols's newest book, "Peace Is a Practice," is being released this month.Zondervan

I believe this speaks to what my mother gave me that day when she told me that I had the same birthday as Rosa Parks. She wasn’t just giving me education. She also was giving me a reason for celebration. Black History Month isn’t just about Black people, but for Black people as well. 

This is exactly why I am so grateful to share a birthday with Rosa Parks. It gives me hope that, with each passing year, amid all of the educating and awareness-raising, that more of us have something to celebrate … even if it’s in the smallest way … like sharing a birthday. 

Instagram poet and artist Morgan Harper Nichols (@morganharpernichols) is the author of “All Along You Were Blooming,” a book of poems and art. Her latest book, “Peace is a Practice: An Invitation to Breathe Deep and Find a New Rhythm for Life,” will be available nationwide Feb. 15, 2022.