WE’RE HERE…

I like history, especially Black history. Just because I am not yet satiated, my Black history quota still has not been met.
Everyday, I mean everyday… my eyes and mind are open to (learning) something
new; be it something I read, saw on television, social media, etc., or overheard in a conversation.  It’s all about purging myself of that glut of European history I imbibed (was indoctrinated with, subconsciously force-fed) beginning in elementary school and into high school. Post secondary offers some options.
So last Thursday 1, I tuned in to CBC radio’s early morning show, and heard a familiar voice in a discussion about Black History Month 2018 (happenings) for the annual month-long period of things of interest to do Black people and others who are interested in Black history and our presence in this part of the world and elsewhere. It’s all about Black people from various parts using the annual month of historical enlightening… to do just that, hopefully educating others about us, and our place in the world.
And so it continues each year in this society, as well as many others, where we constitute a proverbial minority group. We have been reduced to, become synonymous with, slavery. As such we remain marginalized here in Quebec where government has mastered the art of compartmentalization and pigeonholing those who are not of the dominant culture.
So listening to that woman (not only is she interesting, she’s also a conscious woman who takes pride in talking things historical and cultural) bursting with palpable enthusiasm, going on about all things Black History that might interest the general public, all I could think of was here we go again… It’s Black History Month and we have to remind – not so much Black people, but the wider community and other non-Black-non-white peoples of what’s in store for this year’s twenty-eight days of blackness…
[Actually, some Black people who haven’t become jaded still need a little reminder.]
When all was said and done she wished listeners, “A happy Black History Month.”
The following day, I met another Black woman who also wished me “Happy Black History Month.” She told me the night before she had participated in an opening event and was looking forward to attend as many related events as possible.
I told her there was a time when I too tried to attend as many BHM happenings as possible, but I found that over the years my interest has gradually waned. Not to say that I’m not learning anything new (as it relates to our history), learning is a lifetime pursuit after all. It’s just that over the years I’ve assumed a “been-there-done-that attitude.” But here again it’s not to say that there’s nothing new for me to know, or learn, about us. Au contraire. I’m a glutton for learning as much as I possibly can about Black history.
There’s still so much history for us to learn. And given the fact that the mainstream media has little or no interest… it’s incumbent on all of us to find whatever historical [Black] information we can by using the plethora of mediums available: online radio, tv: BBC, PBS, social media, magazines and so on that are at our disposal.
Truth is, we still cannot depend on educational institutions to yield to our wishes and genuine interest by including more Black/Africa oriented [history] studies… Not as a specialty area per se, but just as a subject of ordinary human interest in the curriculum.
But… we’re still living in Canada, where the status quo European curriculum—albeit with some minor changes, the inclusion of a little more of the First Nations’ history—remains the norm. At the post-secondary level it’s another (his) story; education is a business, so where there’s interest and a demand for Blackness institutions will oblige.
I was hoping the annual Black history calendar would offer some real history (about the lives of historic Black figures) as it did on its inception in 1992.
The month was recognized with a bevy of interesting cultural events and activities (some entertaining, some educational). And there was a calendar of interesting [authentic] historical figures profiled, all truly people of historical significance. I remember those years.
In fact, during a recent BHM conversation, a longtime friend told me she used to collect the BHM stuff (agendas, etc., but especially the calendar with veritable historical figures) who were very involved in the historical struggle, and other areas of interest in Black history: politics, education, science… She still has all that material in a box – her “box of history,” she calls it.
Which is why she regards what’s been produced and celebrated as Black history in recent years as “showbiz, not history.”
It has now become an historically diluted product, which celebrates individuals for their personal accomplishments, a good thing that could be done in another format.
Black history is not a vainglorious affair. Those who are written about are the ones who have impacted the lives of others – positively or otherwise – over centuries and generations.
Historical icons the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are two prominent names that come to mind. There are so many others on the African continent and across the Diaspora who have made their contributions to the Black race and the world.
But many people contend that the lives and legacy of Black history-makers are been reduced to commercial, figurine-like items.
Over the years I’ve watched/listened to Professor (philosopher, political activist, social critic, author) Cornel West on television and/radio interviews on the topic of Black history. In his opinion Black History Month has become a spectacle, a commercial affair. It has become devoid of history. He now refers to it as the “Santa Clausification of Black History month.”
West also said the same thing about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, et al.
Happy Black History Month does sound like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, someone’s birthday, anniversary or whatnot.
To reiterate, there’s a place for the “laureates” who have been gracing the months of each year in the annual calendars; they have achieved personal goals, and are to be celebrated. Kudos and bountiful respect to them!
By virtue of their accomplishments they could inspire others…
A calendar representing and celebrating Black history and historical figures is a whole other thing.
Wonder what Carter G. Woodson (a co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, who, in 1926, proposed a “Negro History Week,” the precursor to what’s now called Black History Month) would think of the BHM calendar produced each February.
As he said back then, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
To borrow from an online article, “Woodson’s provocation has evolved into something of a pop holiday” with that well-meaning greeting: “Happy Black History Month!”
The writer also cites U.S. President Donald Trump’s remark last year: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s doing an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”
Remember that pure, stupid triteness?
The “Santa Clausification of Black History Month.”
Never mind the BHM calendar,
Meantime, well intentioned as it is, and the solidarity factor considered I will never wish anyone “Happy Black History Month.”
And I’ve never received a Black History Month greeting card. Good thing.
As usual, I hope I’ll learn something new over the next three weeks.