Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Black History Month

Black History Month?

As a person who’s been in school all his life Black History Month, which draws to a close today, has always been a peculiar time for me. In elementary school, it meant teachers taking time away from Social Studies class to instruct us about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In junior high school, it meant history teachers taking time to discuss Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. And in high school, it meant history teachers…you get the point. Harriet Tubman and Phyliss Wheatley were thrown in there somewhere, and at some point, some teacher filled us in with this “neat” bit of trivia, Carter G. Woodson started Black History Week.

Later on in life, McDonalds and other conglomerates really got in the mix and offered Black History Month Calendars, or other promotional materials bearing the face of Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass. It eventually got to the point where by mid-January I’d see posters advertising Black History Month in stores in my neighborhood and on campus. Black History Month was the time for public television stations to introduce new documentaries, and television shows to premiere their sentimental tales about notable African American firsts or obscure sports and entertainment figures. February was also the month for my friends to joke about “why did we get the shortest month of the year?” or declare that “every month should be black history month.”

However, this year, I could honestly say I did not have a black history month. For the first time since I lived in Haiti I did not attend one event that was specifically designated a Black History Month event. I did not get a free Black History Month gift with my “Value Meal Purchase,” nor did I learn about someone recently uncovered by 20/20 or ESPN. No one came up to me this month and said, “I just saw [insert either Michael Eric Dyson or Cornel West] give a talk, what do you think of him?”

This was not intentional at all and I actually attended other gatherings focusing on the contributions made by Blacks to history, but which for reasons that I do not know the intricacies of, were not promoted as Black history programs.

I haven’t figured out whether to be incensed or indifferent about this occurrence. Should I be concerned or consider it an anomaly? If the djembe drummers tap Black History month in the forest and I’m not there to hear it, is it still Black History Month?

Then again, maybe I’m the only one experiencing this absence.


kamau said...

I agree that there in increasing difficulty recognizing black history month. I've had a similar experience and I live in Atlanta, the birth place of the icon Martin Luther the King. It may be that the modern version of black history month will rest on the shoulders of Tavis Smiley's State of the Black Union. I have to add though that the drudgery of all those February's of PBS documentaries with the solemn soundtracks and prominent black actors wearing black turtlenecks talking in front of a black background has gotten tiring. I'm losing interest. I think that the month ought to evolve to reflect the evolving black experience. Rather than a documentary focusing just on the black history of New Orleans and how it came to this difficult pass, a black history month documentary might be comparative and compare the conditions of black people in Gonaieves (sp?) and their history and flood experience with those in New Orleans. A new twist, a new dimension, a broader definition of black.

Smiling Sista said...

black actors wearing black turtlenecks in front of black backgrounds! LOL!!! that is too true and TOO funny. thanks for the chuckle :o)...