I had an interesting exchange with a friend on the value of celebrating Black History Month. My position: A study of Black History is essential to making us powerful… individually and as a people, while celebrating Black History Month has become a stereotypical caricature attached to Black people, particularly Black Americans, just like eating fried chicken and watermelons.
In my research on the origins of BHM, I learnt that African American educator and historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 started “Negro History Week”, to be held in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. His goal was not only to bring attention to the historical contributions of Black Americans in the USA, but he had also hoped that “Negro History Week” would one day be eliminated as black history would one day be a fundamental part of American History.
Today BHM has become at best, another sanitized and anesthetizing commercial enterprise, beneficial to the dominating eurocentric society. This month all throughout America and Canada, you’ll have municipal Mayors and/or Police Chiefs, hold BHM opening ceremonies at City Hall, surrounded by Black political, religious and social leaders… those whom they recognize as “Black” leaders… starting with a prayer from a Black pastor, followed by an empassioned speech from Mayor and/or Police Chief, brimming with civic pride on how their local negroes have
behaved as expected made positive contributions to the community over the years… although historically they suffered and continue to suffer personal insults, as well as institutional discrimination, persecution and injustice at the hands of the city’s “White” elite. They will then have a Black woman from the church choir sing a Negro spiritual, followed by a Black teenager reciting a Black History themed poem, then have little Black children in African costumes perform a dance to an Afro drumming ensemble and finally top it all off with a “soul food” meal, featuring fried chicken and watermelon… fo’ sho’. At the end of this minstrel show ceremony, or at best by the end of the month, everything will return to “normal” and Black people will be regulated back to “their place” in society.
The above scenario will play out all this month, to a greater or lesser degree, throughout Black churches, as well as Black cultural and social organizations, with the customary yearly donning of African clothing and head dress, spirituals, drumming, dances, poetry and culturally inspired soul food meals. Unfortunately celebrating the accomplishments of ancient Black Egyptians one month a year, isn’t empowering us into producing Black mathematicians, physicians, astronomers, engineers, physicists, etc., today. Unfortunately celebrating the accomplishments of Black Americans and Canadians one month a year, isn’t inspiring us to build upon their achievements to create a positive legacy of accomplishments of our own to pass on to the next generation. Instead we are conditioned into idolizing the Black icons marketed to us by the dominating culture, such as Li’l Wayne, Trinidad James, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Lebron, Nene, Oprah and Barak Obama.
If we sincerely embraced and utilized the power of Black history in our lives everyday of the year, we would truly understand the enormous historical significance of the irreplaceable afro-futuristic power, potential and accomplishments that the murder of Hadiya Pendleton has denied the Black community… not just for this month, but lost forever… instead of debating the merits of Beyonce’s fake and valueless 2nd Inauguration performance.
“There is no way to understand world history without an understanding of African history.” John Henrik Clarke
An interesting read: Black History Month Has Been an Epic Failure