How Black History Month makes sense in Sarawak

By Patricia Hului

WHEN US President Gerald R. Ford’s administration officially recognised Black History Month in 1976, Ford asked US citizens “to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history.”


BLACK HISTORY MONTH: The idea of Black History Month is to honour black people’s contribution to the society in U.S.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: The idea of Black History Month is to honour the contributions of African American people in American history.

EXHIBITION: Lincoln Corner of Sarawak State Library celebrates Black History Month by holding a small exhibition on Black History Month.

EXHIBITION: The Lincoln Corner at the Sarawak State Library is celebrating Black History Month by holding a small exhibition throughout February.

LINCOLN: The month of February is also Abraham Lincoln’s birth month. He was the US president who abolished slavery in the US.

LINCOLN: February was chosen to celebrate Black History Month to mark Abraham Lincoln’s birth month as he was responsible for abolishing slavery in the US.


While it may sound odd to find an exhibition celebrating Black History Month here in Sarawak at our State Library, the thought of honouring significant figures in our own history is an idea we Sarawakians should go for.


Let us ponder about it first: Do you know who was the first Iban that made it to national football team? How about the first Melanau politician appointed in cabinet? First Sarawakian novelist whose work broke into the national market?


I don’t know either.


When we become more informed about history, especially our own history and the achievements of our ancestors, is acknowledging the capabilities we have within  ourselves.
It would be encouraging to know, especially for those who are minorities in this multi-racial country that their ancestors made a mark in Malaysia history.


Wouldn’t you find it fascinating if you found out your great-great-grandpa was one of the patriots who fought against the Japanese in WWII?

“If he can do it, why can’t I?”


Even if that historical figure is not related to you, you can’t help but think when you look back on Sarawak history, how many accomplishments we have beyond the popularised barbaric reputations of our past.


It would also be inspiring because it opens the minds of young people that anything is possible.


“So no Sarawakian has made it to the top of Mount Himalaya, hmm?”


Everyone has the yearning to be remembered for something when they are gone from this world.
Even though we are still a developing country, it also means that there are alot of opportunities to break records out there.


First Sarawakian to work with NASA for example, no one has achieved that yet. Or the first Sarawakian to become a K-pop singer. If Nickhun from Thailand can make it in the teenage girl Kpop-crazed world, why not a Lun Bawang girl from Miri? The opportunities are endless.


It is about time to keep an ongoing, complete, expanding and accessible record on historical figures in Sarawak. This is not only for those who sacrificed their lives for our country, but those who have contributed in the arts, sciences and humanities.


It is also time to honour our forefathers’ contributions in our country’s development and proclaim that we did not just ‘happen’ to be part of this country but – to echo the words of President Ford – to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of Sarawakians in every area of endeavour throughout our history.


Sarawakians, when are we going to have our own Sarawak History Month?

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