I’m in my 30’s which means I watched Black History Month really get cut down to four to five people with Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman being the main three stars of the month. I remember being elementary school and I feel bad for not knowing the teacher which one it is, it’s between Miss Kelly my 5th grade teacher and Mrs. Bond my second grade teacher, had the top of the wall lined with Black faces and a quick bio of them. I think it was Miss Kelly because that was also the year the Shaka Zulu week long mini series came on our channel 27 back home and if you were my skin tone and or darker that was your name in any verbal exchange. Anyway the wall was filled with everyone from Shaka Zulu to Queen Nefertiti to Bill Cosby to Fredrick Douglas to W. E. B Du Bois to Thurgood Marshall. We didn’t get the month long treatment, we got the year long treatment. Even our 103 Jamz radio station back in the days during the morning Supreme Team run during the morning show they had they would have a fact in Black History Monday through Friday because Black History is American History.
Somewhere in the 90’s the ball was dropped and so many people were dropped out the list for what I feel is pop culture reasons. You say certain names and people are lost and have no idea who they are or why we should know them. People who are not actors, singers or civil rights activists are just not even mentioned anymore. So many poets during the Harlem Renaissance aren’t coming up or the poems that did and still say so much today and are powerful are not touched upon. Is this our fault as African Americans for allowing pop culture dictate what should be focused on? I know many civil rights activists were nowhere near as peaceful as Martin Luther King Jr. People don’t even know King had to be persuaded to go the turn the cheek route, it wasn’t an idea he came up with. Besides Obama we don’t even have modern African Americans to look at in the same way. I remember Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were in that lane for a minute and I’m not sure why they were dropped but by 2000 their faces stopped showing up during February. As African Americans we have much too much history to try and cram into one month and it is just disrespectful to even keep doing it. It’s saying the contributions we have given to this country shouldn’t and isn’t considered American history. Let me tell it our centuries as slaves is just as important to look at as well because we were in the acres of farm land planting everything America became famous for from tobacco to cotton. To continue to just showcase our past, meaning 1950 to 1968, as if time before and after that time frame nothing important happened is just wrong. The saddest thing is if we were to get rid of Back History Month would we even get taught anything about African Americans. Well I mean even less than it seems people are being taught now.
I feel bad because I know college students who are paying to learn stuff I was taught for free in public school during the 80’s and 90’s. Of course we didn’t go into real depth when it came to the writings and what drove those African Americans. Not sure if that was because of where I grew up or if it was the time frame I grew up in but as a child African American History was fed to us all the time. I think if we are going to continue to have this be a month long thing then maybe it should be taken seriously and not summed up to four to five people and a handful of movies. Our history is wider than those who for fought for our freedom and equality. I think middle schools should start with the breakdown of Brown v. Board Of Education. One thing those young kids will do is look around and depending on where they live notice the slight similarities of the past and today. Some will ask what happened and why does it look like there is not much of a change because middle school is when the mind really breaks things down to find some logic to it. I think elementary schools should start with how Black History Month was nothing more than a week started by Carter G. Woodson in 1929. If you’re gonna tell Back History start with where the idea came from. How many people in general even know Carter G. Woodson? We know nothing about him, not even this. His face should be seen as the face of this celebratory educational event that happens one month. At least look back at what he had students focus on in the early 1900’s and as a result get a deeper sense of Black History. Like I said I think last year I’ve been to the site Black History site and it was lacking and looking to appeal to general people looking to see faces and names they know. History is made everyday and we always discover new people who did something extraordinary in the past. Yet since the 90’s to now we have only had Obama become the newest face to this already short list of African Americans we hail as relevant to Americas history and we don’t need a month for that.