Friday, February 06, 2009

My Love/Hate Relationship with BHM


I'm a big hypocrite when it comes to Black History Month. My capital-B, Black revolutionary self believes the very concept is offensive, for so many reasons. Mainly, because Black history shouldn't be segregated from the rest of American history. By doing so, it gives people a free pass to ignore the role Black people have played in shaping this country since setting foot on American soil. Black history, Hispanic history, it's all American history. What the heck is America except a country made up of a whole lot of foreigners anyway? Why should our contributions be singled out in February and not included in every other history book, text and educational curriculum? Why don't we talk about Bessie Coleman along side Amelia Earhart? Why isn't Zora Neale Hurston as important as Truman Capote?

But then there's me the author and speaker who happens to be Black and who happens to have a lot to say about Black people and their contributions to American culture. And guess what? My phone rings more in the month of February than ever before. Everybody wants a piece of me during February and I have a mortgage to pay and two very hungry boys to feed. So professionally, BHM is like my cash cow and boy do I know how to milk her. Of course I try to use my BHM speaking and writing engagements for good. I spread my message of multicultural history and hope to make people stop and think. Maybe get the rest of the country on board for integrating all of the colored people's history into the big book and celebrate all year long. But then of course, I'd have to find another cash cow.

So what do you think about Black History Month? Does it serve a purpose or does it do more harm than good? What do you do to celebrate or protest? Please share.

And don't forget to comment on our first opinion poll and get a chance to win a copy of asha bandele's, Something Like Beautiful.

And one more thing. If you're interested, Nadya Suleman, the mother of octuplets is spilling her story to NBC's Ann Curry. The link shows a clip from the interview but the full interview will air on Monday on the Today show.

Enjoy the weekend!

10 comments:

Color Online said...

Will come back to share my views shortly. In the meantime, I thought you and your readers might appreciate how Color Online tries to promote women of color writers with our Potpourri trivia quiz. Latest post:

Quiz #7

Her blog describes her as a writer, author, teacher, speaker. She’s a Smith graduate. Studied abroad in Spain and authored a coming of age memoir detailing her life in a Spain very different from the one she had fantasized. She has written for Ms., Savoy, Suede, Bitch, Odyssey Couleur and Essence magazines. She maintains a blog to keep her readers plugged into an ongoing dialogue about cultural issues. Who is she and what is the title of her memoir?

Provide links if possible.

Potpourri

Rose-Anne Clermont said...

Ok, LT, I hear where you're coming from. I hate the idea of a "singling" out, just as I am annoyed by AA sections in book stores. . .however, I think you can still set aside a time to commemorate great Black people without discrediting them at other times of the year. I think of it as an anniversary or sorts.

And let me tell you, where I went to middle and high school, no one ever thought about Black people (except when they saw me). BHM forced the teachers to consider their curricula and add in a Black author or set aside a time to talk about Black people in America. I wondered if they would have done that without a BHM?

That's why (sorry for the shameless plug here) I celebrate MY Black History month on my blog. I try to highlight Black Americans not on the generic BHM roster but those who changed my life in a very specific way. Now, do I listen to Sweet Honey in the Rock in other months? Of course. Will I always love The Jeffersons? Yes. But here is a time to think about them, as you would think about a loved one on the day she/he died in a different way than you would on any other day.

Make any sense?

Peace,
R-A

Beth said...

As a public library collection manager, I can only offer this: every February, we pick up a couple of new fans of fantastic, underrepresented Black authors because of the focused purchasing we do and the displays we put up, people who might have never otherwise picked up those books, and the new fans don't wait until the next February to come back for more. And that... is not nothing.

LT said...

Color Online,

Thanks for including me in your quiz and I love your site. I'll be visiting often.

Rose-Anne,
No problem, we love shameless plugs when it leads to good things. And I like your anniversary take on BHM.

Beth,
That is music to my ears and I guess if we could open just one mind by highlighting Black authors during BHM, then sign me up and call me a convert. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Color Online said...

LT,
And I have a confession, your book has been on my tbr, too long. When I found my way here by following smarter readers, I was the convert. Sign me up. Your blog is now listed on both blogs I write and we'll be doing more to feature you. I run a small community library at a local nonprofit. I'm a volunteer (another sister with a day job who dreams of doing community work full-time). Your book will be on our shelf soon.

Keep writing. I'm reading.

meeshtastic said...

I've been meaning to comment on this post! I too have really mixed feelings about BHM too. On the one hand I understand the historical need on,the other hand it feeds into the kind of blind,uncritical,sometimes inaccurate, one-dimensional,hero-worship that plagues all of U.S. history.

So I've been marking the month with weekly posts on my site. (plug plug) I've been pulling out moments in history that affect all aspects of American life past and present. I also point readers to my Shelfari to encourage them to check out the books by some of the writers I discuss in the posts.

The Way I See It said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Way I See It said...

MEETOO, I have a problem with this celebration.

On one hand, like most, I like the idea of a month being set aside to commemorate the struggles and achievements of black people. But then there too is the other hand.

Not to undermine our struggle, and the fact that I will be black forever, therefore celebrating BHM whether I want to or not, 365 a year!, but I can’t help but to raise an eyebrow wondering where’s the honor the other 336-37 days in the year.

Why does 'our' struggle seem to be this continuous never-ending prevalent struggle?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that our ancestor’s struggles have given us something to celebrate, and though hopeful with Barak's election to office, but I'd like to see more progress among (the rest of us) in our communities because if not, then soon... other than Barak's election, there may not be much to celebrate...

Spring @ forever spring said...

I'm not a lover of BHM, because I feel like it's a band-aid for the real problem: the fake history American children are taught in public schools. I'm never gonna get behind telling my brown daughters that only white men have made noteworthy contributions to American society, so in my house, every month is Real History month.

I do appreciate Beth's comment though and it does ring true.I wonder if it weren't for BHM, would children in public schools in white neighborhoods ever hear about anything other than white men at all?

And if I could...
Mrs. Diane Allen was my second grade teacher. She was an African-American teacher in a white suburban neighborhood who taught ALL her students about Nat Love and Fred K all year round. Here's to you, Mrs. Allen, with my gratitude and respect.

The Way I See It said...

Rose-Anne and Spring@Forever I definitely hear you... & precisely my point... sharing our culture year-round... addressing forums and panels and boards that make decisions on curriculums taught at the grade school levels... so that this celebration becomes an Inclusive celebration (one to celebrate with vigor) as opposed to a month long event where I sometimes feel that it is just us celebrating.