Why Black History Desperately Needs To Become Common Knowledge
Let's make Black History Month an outdated event.
February 02, 2018 at 1:19 am
Blackness is an umbrella term created by white elites to justify the enslavement and inferiority of darker people. It’s an effective term to delegitimize the heritage of a continent with thousands of complex cultures, languages and traditions. Combine this with the erasure of a millennia of African knowledge through the burning of libraries, and the imposition of a European name and foreign tongue on new slaves — you create a new generation with a lost identity. Centuries later, we still feel the impact today. It’s a brilliant and intentional tactic.
How many of you reading this article have the privilege of knowing your real last name? We all know that if you’re not indigenous to the Americas, your ancestors are from somewhere else. How many of you can trace that back? If you’re black and don’t have family that chose to come here from an African country, chances are it might have been a little tough to answer those questions.
In 2018 we are fortunate enough to know what it feels like to have a black President. There are thousands of books about black American heroes. This is the result of years of hard work by organizations that relentlessly pushed the status quo.
In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson, and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, introduced Negro History Week. It was a necessary step because America in the 1920s had virtually zero representation of black history in its textbooks. This daring endeavor was adopted by three states and two cities. In 1969, the idea of Black History Month was proposed at Kent State University. It took six years for Black History Month to be nationally recognized among educational institutions and centers for black culture.
Despite the setbacks, it’s amazing how our ancestors established a culture of black excellence. Thanks to the success of generations of black educational initiatives, there is an ever-expanding list of black intellectual achievements. Impressive for a group that the US Government once considered three fifths of a human.
Look at how spare ribs evolved from "scraps" only fit for slaves, to a staple of American BBQ. Or how hip-hop evolved from a trend started at a Bronx birthday party in 1973, to the number one most popular genre of American music by 2017. You cannot tell me that we are not creative and resourceful as a people. It’s this same combination of genius and resilience that we need in order to take black excellence to the next level.
Prominent black voices (and movies like Black Panther) will continue doing the work to emphasize contemporary black achievements. But we need to up the ante. Every aspect of black history, from pain and trauma, to triumph and excellence, needs to be mandated in our textbooks, showcased in our museums and celebrated through public monuments. Black history needs to be ingrained in mainstream America's collective consciousness. It is our responsibility to ensure the progress of a movement that started with slaves sharing oral histories from Africa. If we are successful, it will be manifested in print, stone and of course the cloud. If we do this right, the next generation will find it absurd that something that is everywhere was only restricted to a month.