WW Wednesdays Presents: Black History Month Up Close and Personal
Part I: Do we still need Black History Month in a Post-Obama Nation?
It’s been about 3 centuries since we were removed from our continent and stripped of our land and identities, about two centuries since Lincoln freed the slaves, almost half a century since the Civil Rights Act was passed and 2 plus years since we elected a black president.
So, do we still need a Black History Month?
When I researched this topic I found raging debates from obvious arguments like “it should be year-round,” to downright racist writings of “why do people of certain ethnicities get their own month, why shouldn’t we all?” and every argument in between.
Our kids are at the bottom of the pile in terms of their cultural knowing and awareness. Our little kings and queens think Fantasia wrote and sang “Summertime” and know nothing of Billie Holiday or Nina Simone (as Drum recently uplifted this gifted sister). They know nothing of Nate Turner or Fannie Lou Hammer. But they know Lil Wayne (comparing him to Tupac, really?) and Nicki Minaj (the Grace Jones/ Lil Missy copycat/diva). They know how to text but not how to read for comprehension.
Of course there are those of us who celebrate BHM in how we live each day. Then we see those who give us a bad name and make us shake our heads and wonder “WWMD”-What would Martin & Malcolm Do? Sometimes we get tired of fighting this fight and February seems to add insult to injury looking at where we are and where we could be.
To this day we are still collecting money to properly honor MLK’s memorial. To this day countless souls line the ocean floors that never made it to land and yet they are not honored or even counted in the Great African Slave Trade Holocaust.
In schools nationwide the typical display of a worn image of MLK and Harriet Tubman grace the walls, children recite “I have A Dream” lacking passion, not aware of the meaning, and some school lunches featuring fried chicken and other “southern delicacies.”
Personal Note: I thank God everyday my grade school principal, Mr. Nathaniel Gillon, taught us the Negro National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance and instilled in us great pride we took with us throughout our lives.
In most college campuses African Studies are still an elective meanwhile African History and our contributions to America are secrets known only to those seeking true and ultimate knowledge. Our history is just that, ours alone! Our textbooks lack color!!!
Next week Tuesday we will again dishonor those who shed their very blood for our right to be represented by sitting on our collective butts and not voting.
So family, I ask you, do we still need a Black History Month?
Should we start insisting it be an everyday, all day celebration? Should we start insisting Black History be in American history books, not just a chapter, and our history included in all curriculum? Hint, hint MPS and other school districts trying to keep kids interested in core subjects.
And one last rant! I expect our president to be wearing Kente cloth ties and doing something African during this month? So far I have seen nothing on the schedule, but I am hoping for more than a “one night only” music festival. He should be at schools once a week teaching Black History and why not read “I Have A Dream” or something poetic to the nation during his address or hell, interrupt regular “programming.” Thanks to Giant for reemphasizing the real meaning of TV programming!!
I was in fact expecting to see him turning the White House “black” year-round. If I look at him one more time in the Oval Office with not one piece of African artifacts gracing the backdrop I am going to scream.
A story from NPR I share with you about the subject.
Yes, We Still Need Black History Month
by John Ridley
February 17, 2009
So it’s February. That means school kids across America are learning that George Washington Carver didn’t actually invent the peanut, and a black man did invent the stoplight. And while the kids are learning, February by February, grown-ups are asking if maybe it’s time to retire Black History Month.
This year, one op-ed writer flat-out said Black History Month “has come to seem quaint, jarring, anachronistic” and “robs blacks of [their] part in U.S. history.”
The country is for sure in a different place than it was when historian Carter G. Woodson originated “Negro History Week” in 1926. Most obvious, of course, is that 83 years later we have a black man in the White House. Beyond that, black American history is now seemingly cranked out on a regular basis. Eric Holder becomes the first black attorney general. Mike Tomlin becomes the second black coach to win a Super Bowl championship in three years. The Republican National Committee is so desperate for relevance it elects Michael Steele as its chairman, and does so over Katon Dawson, who until last September belonged to a whites-only country club. Somewhere Strom Thurmond is doing about 8,000 rpms in his grave.
So, clearly, a nation whose icons are the likes of Tiger Woods, Oprah and Barack Obama doesn’t need a Black History Month.
What the advocates of dumping Black History Month miss is that watching Tiger sink a 20-foot putt or Oprah cooking with Rachael Ray doesn’t exactly teach the kiddies about the Tuskegee Airmen or the Middle Passage or Plessy v. Ferguson. That’s kind of like saying you can get a master class in Hispanic heritage by watching an episode of Ugly Betty.
Now, I happen to agree that Black History Month is a set-aside. But the reason it’s set aside is because even in 2009, most schools do a poor job of integrating black history — or Hispanic history or Asian-American history — into their yearly curriculum. Are kids really taught about the Nisei brigade or Executive Order 9066, the Trail of Tears or the National Farm Workers Association?
This isn’t the history of one ethnicity. It’s our history. And until our history is fully explored throughout the school year, then Black History Month remains relevant.