Black History Month – Worth Noting

Listen to the Story

My chum Suzy called me the other day with a complaint about a favorite hangout of ours. I won’t name the place, but it’s a natural food grocery known for its great sampling events. Suzy exclaimed, I called to get the February schedule and they didn’t have one event commemorating Black History Month!

Although I was not surprised at the store’s oversight, it did make me reflect. Suzy and I grew up in the heady days of the black power movement. As a skinny little kid in Memphis, I danced to the beat of James Brown’s funky declaration of independence, Say it Loud. . .I’m black and I’m proud.

That song, and seeing National Guard troops and tanks on the streets of Memphis after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, changed the way I saw America, myself and my future. Through my teen and college years, I wore my bushy afro and dashikis proudly. And, I learned more about why I should be proud of the legacy of my African and Black American ancestors.

For those of you who skipped history class that day, we owe the creation of Black History Month, and the 20th century study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson.

Dr. Woodson’s story alone is an amazing bootstrap tale. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in Kentucky coal mines and didn’t attend high school until he was twenty. And in 1912, he became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard.

Dr. Woodson was disturbed to find that history books largely ignored the black American experience. So in 1926, he launched Negro History Week as a way to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

But has black history month become pass ? I know we all want to believe that were well on our way to racial harmony and respect for the diverse tapestry of America. It’s now normal for blacks and whites to work and socialize together. And today a black man in serious contention to become the next president of the United States.

But there are still deep vestiges of subtle and not so subtle racism in America. We still have a long way to go when it comes to acknowledging our own individual prejudices and misconceptions of one another, which is why I believe black history month is still important and very relevant.

Despite our progress, it’s still important to stop, reflect and learn more about the stories black men and women who laid a vital path that guides all of us today. I invite you to attend just one of the many black history month events being hosted by OSU or other community institutions. It’s not just a black thing, it’s part of our collective story. . .an American thing.

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