This first appeared as a comment for one of my posts. Then I searched the web and realized that recently, Leon Walker has been sharing his thoughts about Black History Month on other blogs too. So after reading his opinions and understanding the deeper meaning of what he wants readers to understand, I wrote to Leon Walker and asked him if I could reprint his comment, as a blog post — sometimes, thought-filled comments get lost.
Leon Walker writes…
Should We Squash “Black History Month”?
Do away with “Black History Month”… I have heard this discussed in the media and among friends and acquaintances. In my opinion, a month is somewhat long for any ethnic celebration. If I could make the decision in a vacuum, I would opt for “Black History Day” or maybe “Black History Week”.
Before I would make such an edict, however, I would take some time to consider what “Black History” really means. At fifty three years old, I have lived in many locations across the county. In spite of the well intended efforts of many good people, my current assessment is that the events tied to “Black History Month” are frequently (not always) repetitive, to the point of being droll. This may well be, to some extent, the reason that many are seemingly realizing a dissipating interest in seeing the yearly celebration continue. I must make it clear, that I do not accept any argument that the core concept, of annually recognizing historic black achievement, has run its course and is no longer needed.
A portion of the problem, from my individual perspective, is lack of vision, and perhaps creativity in attempting to understand and celebrate true “Black History” from a more broad and unhindered viewpoint. Let me give you a single example. “The impact of violent protest, on the progress of the civil rights movement in America”. I would use the word seldom but the fact is I “never” hear any mention of these “historic” events during annual Black History Month celebrations. Have we forgotten? Or as I fear, we suffer from selective amnesia or manipulation. I contribute the following as further amplification. This is both an opinion and a personal tribute.
I dare say you may not learn of this in schools
So beware the messengers, crafting fools
From whence I come, I need not look
To words of mouth, or dusty books
Gripped in fear, this black boy did see
The war in the cities, to set us free
So I rise and I ask, that this history be told
For our heroes and heroines, proud and bold
Yes Stokely stood strong, in handsome black
As The Panthers marched, and rifles cracked
The vision of Angela’s risen fist
A striking queen, who would resist
And John and Tommy, amidst the throngs
Their black gloved fists, proclaimed the wrongs
And many others, the gauntlet strode
Insurrections path, to freedom road
Revolution’s wind, left a startling chill
In the halls of the White House, and on Capitol Hill
Yet to those that stand, and those long lain
I’ve heard no tributes proud refrain
They fought in the streets, and marched and cried
The truth of their sacrifice, long denied
And buried in, this history’s grave
Proud memories of, so many brave
Let us speak now, and teach, of long hot summer nights
And the violent revolt, to gain our rights
Walk a path now of reverence, and a path of peace
For the many that died, not among the least
Then be cautious by whom, history’s pages are turned
Lest you forget, or learn not, of the cities that burned…
Do away with “Black History Month”…no. I don’t think that is the answer. Let us pause and commit some cognitive energy to consideration of the many other, perhaps now obscure, names, faces and events which represent additional substanitive historic content. “Black History Month” is an annual opportunity to create a wonderful impact. Is it possible that we can collaborate together, just once each year, and create something fresh and new, and marvelous? There are countless names and examples yet to be celebrated. After so many years, and so much heartache, it would be tragic… to simply walk away.
L. A. Walker
© Leon A. Walker, January 2008