Happy Black History Month! Didn’t see that that greeting card sentiment coming. Surprise! I hate the winter and the snow. The snow makes me feel like a minority. My love of this country is a story of unrequited love and invisibility. Black History month provides me with a temporary sense of warmth and belonging.
I see Black History month as an historical phenomenon. For centuries, Africans and African Americans (and other peoples of color) contributed to the development of the culture and financial infrastructure of this country. And for centuries our contributions were conveniently ignored; our stories were systematically deleted from the history books.
In 1926, Carter Woodson, an African American educator and historian worked to establish Negro History Week. The official week fell between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
By 1976, we had a Black or African American history month. Granted; it was the shortest month of the year, even with an occasional Leap Year. But we got the month, much to chagrin of many White Americans who wandered the streets seeking White History Month. Obviously this latter group were unaware they lived in a place that celebrated White History every day.
They seemed to forget that their parents, grandparents and great grandparents could always find their reflections in classrooms, history books, as well as mainstream media: magazines, TV and movie screens. In fact, as quiet as it is kept, white actors were cast to play black, Asian and Native American roles. We couldn’t win.
Black (African American) History Month is bittersweet. There are some white folks who would argue that the first black President, now the first 2nd term black President of the United States is an end in itself, therefore no need future Black History Months. But we just are not there yet… So Happy Black History Month!
Janet Cormier is a painter, writes prose and poetry, and performs comedy. Her “Commentary on Canvas” painting is in her current exhibit at the Somerville Community Access Television Gallery for January and February.