| I had an interesting e-mail exchange with a friend of mine the other day as I was soliciting him for ad in this week's Black History Month special edition. He responded in a very nice way that he essentially didn't believe in Black History Month because he felt it should be at the forefront 12 months per year. In essence, Black History Month is relegated to a pigeon-hole where it is kept safely out of the mainstream history curriculum, except in February when it's brought out of its hole, petted a few times, and then placed back in its hole on February 28th.
Now I couldn't really argue with him because he had a valid point [even though it hurt to know I wouldn't be getting an ad at that time.] He was right.
His comments were essentially backed up by the comments Lucia Nunez, the director of Madison's Civil Rights Department, made at the Madison Minority Affairs Committee's Black History Month commemoration. Again, Nunez feels that the concept of a month keeps Black History segregated away and minimized. She feels the same thing about Hispanic Heritage Month. Nunez urged the audience to continue to read African American books and listen to African American music and appreciate the contributions of African Americans for the entire year. Again, she has a valid point.
In terms of outcomes, I have to agree with both my friend and with Nunez. However, I don't think Black History Month is something we can just drop in expectation of something else. Carter G. Woodson -- whose image adorns our special Black History Month article logos this month -- founded Black History Week back in 1923, I believe, because there was nothing positive about African Americans in the history books. Nada. Black History Week -- which was later expanded to Black History Month -- was better than nothing and was a means to spur the study of Black history and develop materials and facts that could be included in the mainstream texts and curriculum.
Now, did you ever have the experience that the minimum standard that you set became the maximum standard adhered to by other people? You know, it's like the five percent Affirmative Action target that many agencies and businesses just can't seem to go beyond. Well, it seems that while there are many organizations, businesses, media outlets, and schools that do an excellent job of observing Black History Month, African Americans are then greatly reduced in visibility the remaining eleven months. And so the school curriculum might have Black faces in February, but they largely disappear by March 1st.
Now there is really no separating out Black History from American History except in the minds of bigots and White supremacists. I mean really. Slavery and the growth of King Cotton helped fuel the rise of industrialism in the Northeast, not to speak of the fact it dominated the economy and politics of the South for over 200 years. Some of our great centers of learning such as Harvard and Yale were endowed with money derived from slave labor. And a bloody civil war was fought, for the most part, because of the issue of slavery.
But beyond that, what about all of those inventions that were created by the hands of African American scientists? There are the vacuum evaporating pan for sugar beet processing, blood transfusions, stop and go lights, peanut butter, and a multitude of other inventions out there. Excuse me, but are they only used by African Americans or used only during the month of February? I think not! I could go on and on about these contributions, but the point is that Black History is for every American, not just for African Americans. It is a history that should be taught to all and appreciated by all. And it should be integrated into the mainstream media and classroom curriculum 12 months out of the year and not just in February.
But do I want to give up Black History Month? I don't think so until the mainstream media, etc. start incorporating it on a regular basis. Otherwise the contributions of African Americans may just start to disappear once more into the annuls of history.
Or perhaps I have another solution. By the powers vested in me as an ordinary citizen of the United States and the state of Wisconsin, I do hereby declare the period February 1, 2007 - January 31, 2008 as "The Year of Black History." Let it be duly noted and proclaimed!
|February 7, 2007
* The Literary Divide: Negative images of Blacks persist on TV and in the movies,
by Dr. Paul Barrows
* Riding the education train out of poverty,
by Jonathan Gramling
* Demystifying the home buying process,
by Ike Anyanike
* DCR division heads,
by Laura Salinger
* Louisiana Plantations: Ghosts of a horrible past,
by Heidi M. Pascual
* Simple things:
by Lang Kenneth Haynes
* Voices: Martin Luther King,
by Dr. Jean Daniels
* 100 Black Men held annual meeting ,
by Paul Barrows
* Random Order: State of the Black Union: a rough estimate,
by Tracie Gilbert
* Black History of the Wisconsin Legislature,
by State Sen. Lena Taylor
* Ken Black: Military dayz (part 1),
by Jonathan Gramling
* Living Black History,
by Valeria Davis
* Bucking history,
by Jonathan Gramling
* Noticias de hoy
* Hues City Happenings
|VOL II No. 3 February 7, 2007|
|Reflections/ Jonathan Gramling
The Year of Black History
Decision 2007: Candidates for Madison Mayor answer
The Capital City Hues Questionnaire