May’s heritage and diversity celebrations

Posted in: Cultural Resources

This Place Matters family stands in front of mountains on clear blue dayCommemorative months remind us of the importance of celebrating the people, places, and stories that make up our collective heritage. They allow us to tell our own stories, and benefit from the stories of others. The act of remembering is critical to understanding who we are and who we want to be—both individually and collectively. Over the past half century, multiple new commemorative months have been established; this speaks to the growth of our understanding of our collective past.

May is Preservation Month. First established in 1973, this month offers us the opportunity to celebrate the places we all hold close. This Place Matters has become the tagline of this movement, offering a way for people around the world to connect and share the places they can’t live without with others. This campaign strives to encourage all of us to really think about the importance of place and preservation in our lives.

Of course, with everything going on in the world today, physical celebrations are not possible; indeed many of us can’t even go to our favorite places at all, unless our favorite place happens to be our living room. To circumvent this, Colorado’s Preservation Month celebration has gone virtual, with groups posting videos and websites to celebrate historic places and preservation organizations across Colorado.

Commemorating people, as well as places

One of the reasons I love the idea of Preservation Month is that it allows each of us as individuals to denote which spaces are most important. It is a true equalizer; anyone can place a value on any space. We as people give physical spaces meaning. It is just as valuable to commemorate the collective histories and contributions of groups of people as it is to remember the places themselves.

Several groups of people are celebrated in May, including Asian/Pacific Americans, Older Americans, and Jewish Americans. Diversity Central’s Heritage Month guide explains some of the history behind when and why these celebrations started. Asian Pacific American Month began in 1976, Older Americans Month in 1963, and Jewish American Month in 2006.

This year the commemorations might look a little different with events and activities cancelled, but there are still numerous ways to observe these groups and reflect on the diversity of our society.

Why do months like these matter?

Our collective history as it stands currently is incomplete. Certain voices have been silenced—through force, lack of access, a flawed socioeconomic system. But we don’t need to make the same mistakes today. Commemorating and remembering the histories if historically marginalized groups offers us all a chance benefit from something really valuable: a more honest, complete version of history.

Dianna Litvak

About the Author

Dianna Litvak is a public historian in Denver who specializes in surveying historic farms, ranches, post-World War II neighborhoods and linear features such as roads, irrigation ditches and railroad grades. Dianna enjoys hiking, cooking, and reading.

Read more posts by Dianna Litvak

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