We are beyond a month
February 2016 marks the 12 anniversary of Black History Month being acknowledged in Canada. We often joke that we were given the shortest month on the calendar. Truth is, African American historian Carter G. Woodson created “Negro History Week” in 1926. This period in time was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. The United States under president Gerald Ford officially extended it to a month in 1976, the United Kingdom in 1987 and not so innocent Canada in 1995.
On the surface, our community has celebrated, and has been proud about the observation of Black History Month. However, lately, I’ve been asking myself if it’s time to abolish the token observation.
I am 100% in support of acknowledging the plethora of accomplishments and achievements of Black people in the world, but in the same breath I ask myself why are we simply not included in global history… period. For a lack of better terms it feels like Black History Month has become a pacifier to soothe our people while really offering nothing of substance.
I titled this article BAM (beyond a month) because although there have been success stories by several individuals in many sectors, we as a community have not advanced a lot in comparison to others.
White history month doesn’t exist, nor does any other races’ for that matter.
I believe Negro history week was started with good intentions and was a blessing. However, our people have made huge strides since 1926.
We are and have been a part of world history. Our contributions merit more than a yearly mention lasting 28 or 29 days.
Black history didn’t start with slavery, but that’s all we (and our non-black peers) were fed in classrooms. Personally, I would trade Black History Month for the inclusion of Black history in the curriculum.
Fortunately, today’s technology gives us access to information that wasn’t so readily available in the past.
I recently hosted a round table as part of Black History Month on my nighty radio show on K103 FM. The discussion was the brainchild of Youth Stars founder Malik Shaheed and featured Maya Johnson of CTV, Denburk Reid of Montreal Community Cares and Monnaie Monnaie’s founder Brian Smith.
We touched on day-to-day concerns and issues that affect all of us. Above average unemployment, power of entrepreneurship and self-improvement. Our talk received tremendous feedback and inspired listeners, but I ask myself what’s next: how do we move forward and do better.
As clichéd as it sounds, we desperately need to gather our resources and strengthen our community: Invest in us, is a step in the right direction.
We can’t change the political and economic system in Quebec, but we can change ourselves. By that I mean help build businesses and organizations. If we don’t, who will? When I look at other communities in Montreal, unity seems to come naturally, yet we struggle to achieve this.
If Black History Month is truly an honourable and positive thing, how come no other race has attempted to create their own?
More and more it feels like a throwback to segregation.
World history should reflect integration. We can’t change the past written by the conquerors, but we can be a part our present and future.
I want to be clear this is not a Stacy Dash-slap in the face of Black History.
It’s an initiative driven by pride and the desire not to settle but to seek more. We are beyond a month.
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