Today, February 1st,  is the first day of Black History Month. It is also National Freedom Day. With fun and silly National “something” Days like National Talk Like a Pirate Day and National Popcorn Day, it’s easy to overlook important commemorative days like National Freedom Day. This year, I want to appreciate National Freedom Day and everything it stands for throughout Black History Month.

National Freedom Day commemorates “the signing by Abraham Lincoln of a joint House and Senate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. President Lincoln signed the Amendment outlawing slavery on February 1, 1865, although it was not ratified by the states until later.” (Source)

It’s an excellent way to begin Black History Month. It’s a day to celebrate freedom for all people, particularly for African-Americans. Black History Month highlights those who contributed to our nation, before and after the abolition of slavery. And what is history other than the stories of people who suffered, fought, and persevered? It’s a time to remember the incredible stories of those who helped make our nation what it is today. Stories are important. They connect one generation to another, and I particularly like the famous Black poet, Maya Angelou’s opinion about stories:

Do you have an untold story inside of you? Even if you’re not a writer, you can still tell your story. You’re the only one who has your story. You’re the only one who can tell it.

I’m particularly fond of Maya Angelou, partly because she was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where I live. But what really draws me to her is her wisdom. She has depth and speaks truth that we need to hear. This is one of my favorite quotes of hers:

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Stories, more often than not, involve pain. Experiences are not always easy or pleasant, but they make us who we are. They shape us and the world around us. The world can be a scary place, but we can find comfort in shared experiences, shared stories. Stories build bridges and create connections.

I encourage you to spend National Freedom Day and Black History Month reading stories about black Americans and thinking about your own story. Your story could be the voice of hope and help that someone needs. Join us to find 117 Solutions in 2017 , so we can find 117 Solutions this year to some of our most pressing problems. It’s your story and only you can tell it.