Retro Blog 2008: My Faithful Take on Black History Month

Posted: February 1, 2011 in African American Stories and Viewpoints, Holiday
Tags: , , ,

Here is a retro blog from 2008. It was on the old Fox Milwaukee blog section of giving my viewpoints about having Black History Month. Let me tell you. Even though this occasion should be a year round/monthly celebration, but at times we forget and go to the mall! They say we need to teach our children more. The only way to do that if the ADULTS reteach themselves! Especially those who are African-American.  Just remember that this is NOT “African-American History Month”. It’s BLACK History Month. Not an occasion to be racist or segregated. An occasion to celebrate.

With the second month still in effect, yes it’s time for Black History Month. In one of the blogs last week, I know that some had a hard time coming to pass on why this celebration of still exists now. Some said that we shouldn’t have it, or it’s segregated, or it’s just a waste of time because we don’t teach our children more. Every ethnic celebration has a reason for it’s upstarts and Black History Month is one of them. Like it or not, it is a celebration, and since this is a faith blog, it’s can be joyous celebration for the achievements, contributions, barrier breakings, and difference makers that blacks made in the United States. Let me clarify a few:

About 2 weeks ago in church, my pastor gave a sermon in regarding this year’s election. He did mention that this is first election in years that has an African-American (as would most folks say) and a Woman going at if for the Democratic Side for the White House. Previously, he mentioned with respect about his reasons why we have a Black History Month: “If it hadn’t been for black history month, without the eyes of God, Blacks would still be labeled as second class citizens, under the negative power struggle of Jim Crow, Slavery, being trapped or lost in a country with the almost Christian-like values of religion that would hinder them based on their beliefs”. That’s what he said. Not me. What really urks me is that some folks think that there shouldn’t be one period, or African-Americans should not be subjected to celebrate their ethnic month in February. Which African-Americans are they talking about? You know, when I think about comments, I wonder does anyone take the time to read about “WHY” black history month was created in the first place? If some of those who protests the celebration, took the time to understand, by reading more into it, there shouldn’t be any arguing, protesting, boycotting, canceling of anything that pertains to the second month of the year. I also said, I don’t hear any arguments about Hispanic Heritage Month in September, nor Women’s History Month in March. But why is it always Black History Month? I don’t understand it. That has to be put to sleep.

Remember last year when former America’s Next Top Model Adrienne Curry wanted to “boycott” BET and Black History Month from her MySpace blog, and I reacted in a blog called “This Model Needs to Chill Out!”, and most of you telling me that I’m an American, period? Did you study slavery in school? Remember that? I hope so. I didn’t delete any of the blog comments. I know that I’m an American Citizen, duh! No need to go “Overly Patriotic” here! Ok, Just take a chill pill and calm down! I fly my American Flag, Wisconsin Flag infront of my Sister’s house every Memorial Day, 4th of July, and 9/11 just like everyone else. Even if it’s reading the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and at times reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I was born in 1976, which was a bicentennial year! To quote my mother, “So hey!” The day after, Adrienne did make an apology on her blog stating yes, she meant what she said in her view, and her blog made some folks upset. Mainly Blacks! Speaking of that, if I were to sit down with her like a reporter, or in this case an educator, and ask her about her statement, I would be asking her: “Adrienne, do you know why Black History Month was started in the first place? “Who created it and why?” “Had anyone asked you about that before?” “What was the objective of the creation of Black History Month? She also confessed that she is an example of a failed public school system in her apology and she now understands. Well that’s debatable. I would probably respond to say of what my uncle told me about one of my childhood nicknames that “you can protest all you want, but it’s too late now!”

This also reminds me of an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back in 1991. I’m sure everyone watched the show during the six seasons. This was the episode when Will flunks his history test, and mentions to Aunt Vivian that if he were to study Black History, he would be interested and study hard. The episode was titled “The Ethnic Tip” from the first season. But apparently, after the lectures, Will did state that he read the Autobiography of Malcolm X three times. And Aunt Vivian asked “And that makes you a serious student studying of black history?” She also about the fact to Will that he could wear the t-shirts, put up the posters, and shout the slogans. This statement rung true to Will: “But if you know all the history behind it, you’re trivializing the entire struggle!” This I would probably say to those who are looking at Black History Month also. When we were younger, we all probably nose dived into the” romantic part” of the celebration, but probably never had the chance to review or talk about the origin. Like I said, every ethnic celebration has a beginning, just like Christmas.

But getting back to Black History Month, to answer the call, Dr. Carter G. Woodson was so passionate about black history. He was the reason why we have a “black history month” now. Even in this technological, “my” internet site surfing, digital downloading, Xbox 360 playing, Nintendo Wii challenging, Summerfest attending, Ipod downloading, Digital Television switching, 21st Century! This week alone February 11-15 was the original “Negro History Week”. It was centered around two individuals that had great significance of freedom of African Americans: Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. That to me was the launch of the celebration. In earlier stages, when Dr. Woodson was about 20 years old, he was talking to some Veterans who fought in the Civil War, whom were black. The Veterans of the time told him that they fought in the war, but no one came to them to tell their stories – their experiences of what they went through. In other words, their stories haven’t been recorded. Ladies and Gentlemen, this was in my estimation, a generated start of the birth of black history month. Now you why we have this now? It was long overdue.

For me, Black History Month is a blessing. That’s right. A blessing! At least, I am able to learn about those who set the table before me. Or those who busted down doors for someone like me to walk through. Even if it’s to cross lines of color to integrate with fellowship among other races or creeds, or maybe helped those to become the first to organize, created, assisted, invented and many other developmental ways to for me to tap into just like any other person. Those who prepared it such as Coretta Scott King, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier, Hattie McDaniel, Diahann Carroll, Louis Gossett Jr, Michael Jackson (yes I did say Michael because of MTV and Thriller is 25 years old!) Shirley Chisholm, Martin Luther King Jr, Nikki Giovanni, Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes, Dr. Charles Drew, Madame CJ Walker, Mary Mcleod-Bethune, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Ray Charles, Rosa Parks, Garrett Morgan who invented traffic signals and gas masks; Lonnie Johnson, who made the Super Soakers a household name. He got the idea by watching water spraying out forcefully on ships. I read about him in Black Enterprise Magazine back in the 1990’s about the invention. Now you know why they are “Super Soakers”.

Continuing, more individuals that paved the way like James Brown, Wilma Rudolph, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Sojouner Truth, Tony Dungy/Lovie Smith who were the first black coaches to go head to head in a Superbowl, which Coach Dungy winning the Lombardi Trophy and becoming the first African American to win it. Even Mike Carey, who is an 18 year referee in the NFL, became the first African American Male to officiate in a Super Bowl. Just 20 years ago, Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Even though blacks have made history, but are continuing making history. It’s like infinity.

When my mother was talking to me about the black soldiers in WWII, she first mentioned that we had family members that served both in the Pacific and Europe. Those were my Granduncles, Ernest and Glenn McFadden. She also said that the black soldiers, who helped liberated Europe, went into the holocaust concentration camps first during the war, before the white soldiers came in. Yes they did, and guess what, that information didn’t come from a school history book! The Egyptians back then, were black. Cleopatra was black, Nefreteri, was black, and even those who ruled as Kings, Pharaohs, and Queens were black too. And there were some information about Slavery, the word “Picnic” of how that intersected with Slavery, and the Black Kings/Queens, never came from the school history books either. It’s the truth! I didn’t know. So that goes to tell you that history books, specifically school books, don’t always tell most information! Some of that, I learned out side of school. I attended one of my Family Reunions in Detroit in 1999, and one of the stops on the tour was the Charles H. Wright African-American Museum. This is the place where I mostly learned about black history by some of the descriptions I described above. And the tour guide at the time gave us some insights of Black History, that weren’t mentioned in History Books, or from teachers! Don’t believe me? Go there!

Yes, I am a product of Wisconsin Public Schools (namely MPS), as well as Wisconsin Technical Colleges and the UW-System like anyone else, but still I got the deep information of Black History through my family. Most of that information came through my late Grandfather, Robert Burton, Sr and my mother who always keeps me grounded on the subject all the time! Although this has nothing to do with Black History, but there was a time in Milwaukee that all the stores were closed on Sundays, except the Zoo and Movie Theaters. And I picked this up in a U.S. History Class at MATC. And the same about Thanksgiving, which really the Indians were the shooting victims by the Pilgrims, that started on a Sunday, after a church service. Now these are some of the things that have a significance of why there is a Black History Month or Black History in general. Hopefully this should shed some light to say, “Oh, now I know why there is Black History Month. This is what I’ve been wondering or asking about.” I wish there could be more comments like that. But I know that in today’s era, there are some and none beliefs, young black males still killing each other for stupid reasons, saying the N-Word, sagging the jeans, and etc. And just like the question I asked, “What is wrong with our people?” There was a time that Blacks took a stand against things in a positive light. I know that Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and other civil rights leaders are no longer here. They are not going to reappear again. We are dealing with a whole new monster in this young Millennium. I know that this has nothing to do with Black History Month, or Black History, but the educated process of all of this has to cycle in the mind.

So, love it or hate it, Black History Month is not going anywhere. Yeah give it up! Some of us don’t like it. Well just respect it. There was a time I didn’t understand why there is a Black History Month either, now I get it. It’s all about celebrating black excellence, achievements, recognitions, durability, accomplishments, inventions and most of all, telling and recording our stories! This is my culture which has come far by faith. Although it’s only one month, but Black History is an infinity to summarize.

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