Poetic Tongues/Fabu African American History Month
African American History Month is celebrated in February, which includes a day devoted to love and another day to honor United States Presidents. I believe it was a prophetic choice when historian Carter G. Woodson picked this month in 1926 to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans. African Americans have not only contributed much to our city and state (just ask local “herstorians” Edith Hilliard and Betty Banks), this country and to this world, but we have also been an incredibly loving people despite slavery, segregation, lynching, imprisonment and profound lack. I view the increasing incarceration of African American men as the newest and most deadly form of enslavement. African Americans also have a President who acknowledges his African heritage, not like other presidents who must surely have been multi-racial too, like the rest of the world. J.A. Rogers in his book, “Nature Knows No Color Line,” offers proof that at least one of the former presidents was biracial. I intend to take the DNA test to personally discover and celebrate all of my racial origins while I understand that culturally I have been raised as an African American and ethically I look like an African American. I decided long ago to embrace my heritage. Celebrating positive facts about African-American people, remembering that love is the greatest freedom and honoring our presidents make for a month that really wards off the cold of winter in Wisconsin. Have you noticed that there are not as many programs about African American History month on television and particularly on the Public Broadcast Station (PBS)? I have always enjoyed this month in order to learn more about myself and ourselves. The media line-up has been terribly thin and the public celebrations have been fewer. That is even more reason why I have been announcing in every presentation, “This is African American History Month” and here is my black fact for you. Recently, I read poetry at an opening exhibition about Americana at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. I was the only one to mention that it is African-American History Month and to draw the obvious connection to Americana. No one else mentioned the significance of February, but then I was the only African American reading amongst a group of Americans. Native Americans were mentioned in a poem, but in the usual pejorative ways. There was multi-ethnic art work in the museum’s collection so I just hung out with Romare Bearden and other pieces of artwork. I encourage folks to take time to participate in African American History Month because loving ourselves opens us up to affirming others. We can and should be more loving in this month and every month. If the media won’t highlight us, well we can make opportunities to learn by going to our local libraries and researching information there and through the Internet. Type in any subject and someone Black has made a valuable contribution. I have pulled out my bracelet from Africa with Barak Obama and began wearing it again as a symbol that although the President and his office are being disrespected by some elected officials and others in this country, he is still the President and he won the office with a platform of integrity. I give us the same message of hope and understanding. Even when we are being disrespected as individuals and as a race only because of the color of our skins, we have attained and accomplished much in this country and no one can take our contributions away from us.
Fabu is Madison Poet Laureate, and Consultant in African American Culture, Education and Literary Arts. Visit www.artistfabu.com