Saturday, February 4, 2012

Black History Month: Past and Present

Reposted from Rogue Scholar Society

Courtesy of Brittany Randolph

Video: Origins of Black History Month

Past: Black History Month was not always a month long celebration of the accomplishments of African Americans. It started as Negro History Week in 1926 and was sponsored by Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) under its former name (the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History [ASNLH]). The event and the celebration began to spread as schools and communities began to celebrate it. It was initially celebrated during the same week that Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln celebrated their birthdays. When the 60s were and full force and the Civil Rights Movement was evolving and growing, Negro History Week had already grown into Black History Month. It was not officially recognized by the US government until 1976 when Gerald Ford called upon the public to, "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

Present: At this point, we have elected a biracial man, Barack Obama, as our 44th President here in the United States, erected a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, and have made progress in the past 86 years. But we have not only moved forward. We have dealt with racist laws like the banning of Ethnic Studies, the murder of Oscar Grant, Troy Davis was executed, and the list goes on. Clearly race and racial issues are still relevant and as important to discuss critically as ever before.
Courtesy of Ayah

There is discussion that we should end Black History Month, and by extension, Hispanic Heritage Month and more. The discussion is not limited only to famous Blacks, like Morgan Freeman. He, like others, raises a very valid point. Black history does not belong to only one month. Black history is American history. I could not agree more. We cannot ignore the veil of racism that hung over this country since its founding. To do so taints history and the lessons we are supposed to learn from it.

Our history does not belong to one month. Everyday is an opportunity to learn about Black history, Latino history, Asian history, because they are all parts of American history. The distinction must end. Until then, I am of the opinion that we expand our "months," make them more powerful and meaningful.
"History is alive. How we view, interpret and draw lessons from it will dictate how we move forward to shape and develop our future...we study the past to understand the present and forge the strategies that will shape our future." -Dr. Henry Louis Taylor on his Facebook Page
My history does not belong to February, October, or to any one month. I live my experience every day of my life. We as a country should not ignore, cover over, or dismiss as irrelevant the experiences of People of Color and our accomplishments and struggles in this country. We need to incorporate the experience and history of People of Color in our "regular" history classes because it is not being taught there. That does not mean that during the month of February we cannot increase our focus.

During these history months we should show films, host events, attend or host teach-ins... there are no rules as to what Black History Month has to be; the source material, the dialogue, the conversations... the possibilities are endless; there are new (hi)stories being made everyday as exemplified by the work of Drs. Nevergold and Brooks-Bertram and The Uncrowned Community Builders (the organization they founded).

Let us use February, (October, or whatever month that is designated as a history month) to ramp things up to keep us going all year long.

To learn more about Black History Month and Black History:
History's Black History Month Page
African American History Month Official Page
Biography's Black History Month Page

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