Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cutting Off Our Noses In Spite of Our Faces - Hating, but Needing Black History Celebrations

Katherine Dunham
When I was growing up, black history month was exciting. The Catholic school I attended hung these huge photos of people like Ida B. Wells and Daniel Hale Williams next to the white Jesus.

On free dress day the students dressed like a black person they admired, even the Latinos. I remember my sister dressing up as incredible dancer and choreographer, Katherine Dunham.

Then Budweiser took over with Black History Calendars right next to beer signs. Interestingly, alcohol and narrating black life seemed like a great fit.

Black history became commercialized.

Historical black sound bites that were vague and cheesy would be smooshed into 28 days on the tv and radio. After the end of the month of djembe drumming and libations, everyone was exhausted and ready to move forward with the rest of the white year.

Many people, including myself did not care for the co-opting and all the other political baggage. I think this was around the time I also got too black for my own good and dissed all things black history because it was in the shortest month of the year.

And as the years pass, black history month became the same recycled watered-down stories of kings and queens, and the Martin Luther King.

And most of yawn through black history waiting for it to pass.

HOWEVER

Today I am cringing because students I talk to regarding history are so removed and ignorant of the past I wish I had some of those pictures. We used to complain that our history started with slavery, now black history starts with Rosa Parks.

If we knew then, what we knew now we would not have cut our noses off in spite of our face.

2 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

RiPPa said...

Do you think consciousness or a yearning for an identity other5 than we're presented in the American history backdrop did it?

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