This is obviously one of our…less on time posts, but the matter should be raised. February, for those of you who don’t know, is more than just the month after January, and even more just the month that has Valentine’s Day. It is, for North America, Black History Month. The UK celebrates this a little earlier (or later, depending on how you look at it), back in October.
The idea behind this month is to break down a lot of the social stereotypes that surround people of African descent in North American society. Racial prejudice and social stigma has long been an issue, and the systemic discrimination that so-called racialized Canadians and Americans face is exemplified in the struggle of Afro-Canadians/Americans. Having a month may not seem like a good enough thing, and there are a lot of people out there who denigrate the notion of one month dedicated to one race in particular. Some feel that it trivializes the issues, and some feel that it only serves to keep black history separate from North American history.
While there may be some credibility to these arguments, there is also a lot to be said to celebrate the accomplishments of regular, plain, citizens. These are the movers and the shakers, the people that actually got things accomplished.
Richard McCulloch, a writer for a less than notable newspaper, actually has some eloquent words to speak about what black history month means to him.
Lesson: Redemption finds those willing to change.
What must also be understood is that the famous are not the sole residents in the dominion of black history. Our history boasts the most ordinary of our predecessors exhibiting extraordinary selflessness in their commitment to the progress of our race.
From a petite seamstress named Rosa on a bus, to North Carolina AT&T students at lunch counters, simple citizens with a purpose changed American history. The great change agents in our history did not always carry college degrees or impressive titles. Some of them just carried signs that simply said, “I am a man.”
This is a lesson that can be applied to any struggle that we think of. In every case, it’s regular people that carry the day. Leaders inspire them, organizers guide them, but it is the common man and woman that makes the difference.
One incredible part of Black History Month is the sheer volume of amazing African-American/Canadian artists that are highlighted. Jazz legends like Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington. And then you get amazing hip hop legends like Tupac Shakur. The San Francisco chronicle has a pretty nice little series of articles profiling great artists, so you should check some of them out.
Tupac, as they describe, was full of “a baffling mix of venom and vulnerability.” I’ll save more discussion about Pac for a 4080Profile that we’ll run at a later date, but if you don’t know who he is, you better ask somebody.
No matter what else, now is the time to familiarize yourself with Black History, and hopefully realize that we’re all one group after all, and should be sharing in the richness of our varied history. Celebrating the history of one historically disadvantaged group should not be seen as a denigration of anyone else, and shouldn’t trivialize the struggle. It’s a chance to learn, and we should definitely all take that opportunity. I know we will.