Recently I was messaged by a person who follows my blogs--- yes I have a fan or two --- asking me why I had not written anything for Black History Month.
I really had not thought about writing anything for Black History Month. The reason I wrote "crickets" is because the question caught me off guard. I didn't have a response to it other than "just because" or something like that. Over the last couple days I have been thinking about why haven't I talked about Black history.
Now, I know that if you follow my writing, be it my books, my blogs, video messages or inspirational passages, you no doubt already know that I am about humanity not just specifically any one group or people OVER any other. While this is true, I still think respect and homage should be paid to those underrepresented within our society. But, here I am almost all the way through the month and nothing about, well, the month.
A few days ago I did a Facebook Live video out in the rain and snow talking about perspective. As I rambled on for 15 minutes or so, I was satisfied that the message I wanted to convey had been conveyed. For those who didn't see it the short and sweet of it is that we should be mindful of the inconveniences we complain about because there are people who would die to be inconvenienced like we have at the moment of our complaints. What happened as I drove home is that the answer to the question of why I hadn't written yet came to me.
Because it is a MONTH!
Let me take you back a few years ago when I was in the 9th grade in LA. I had a history teacher who loved history. Even now I can still picture him in his room teaching us about "history." Why did you put "history" in parenthesis, you ask? This teacher, a 50ish year old black man, said something in class that stuck with me throughout my many years of life. When asked why we did not learn more about black men and women in history he replied something of this nature: "because here we must teach HIS-story." This, of course, made sense for a class of 95% black students. What do I mean? HIS-story is in reference to our textbooks, teachings and, yes, history too, which are catered toward the white perspective. It was just the way it was as we grew up. We would learn stories that didn't always present the black person in the best light or at all. As I grew up it was a thing in the back of my mind.
Hmmm, I think the bias of our texts may have had a strong influence on how I approach the world, other people, and cultures to this day. There is always more to a story if, and that's a big "if", one is willing to hear multiple sides. For an example of what I mean I send you to my blog, Lessons of Two Memorials, where I talk about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Nagasaki. With that thought, I think I am very fortunate to have grown up this way. But let me get back on point.
My teacher set the wheels in motion, and as I grew up and joined the military and traveled the world, I was always shocked to hear stories that I never knew were a thing. In fact, for eleven months out of the year I would not hear of what happened to the Africans who would become slaves, who would become Freed Men, who would become blacks of today as if they had no story to tell at all. Yes, we have a month, and, yes, Dr. King has a day of celebration. Most people in America have heard of Kwanzaa, although to be perfectly transparent, I, like a lot of blacks I know, have very little knowledge of the holiday. Even now I am thinking about all the things I never heard of or only partially heard of as a student. I'll try to list a couple things (um, most I learned from movies, I must confess) I learned later in life. (Note: I'll link them but please research better if the story interests you. I am not claiming expertise on any of these points).
1. The 54th Massachusetts - I learned about these guys because of the movie Glory.
2. Black Wall street riot - I happened to have a article on this sent to me a few months ago.
3. Inventions- I literally was looking at things for this blog and came across this article of black inventors we don't know about.
4. Hidden Figures- Oh yea, you know the movie. Had you heard of this great story? Black women being critical to the US's space flight? I was shocked when it came out. Shocked. I mean... SHOCKED. (Note: The link is to an article about the women and not the movie.)
OK, I could go on. Heck, all I need to do is log onto my Facebook and find all the shared posts and messages for this month. There are a lot of great stories. A lot of amazing posts. Blacks have contributed to this country and the world since the beginning. We are learning more and more about that but let's bring it back to the point about why I hadn't posted about this yet.
Black History Month, while great, is a slap in the face for everyone. Wait, what? Yes, for everyone. We need Black History Month because of the problem of "HIS-story" because we, as a country, aren't embracing ALL of our stories. I don't mean just black. All of our ancestors from every corner of the earth have made up AMERICA. Black History is OUR history. White History is OUR history. Mexican, Asian, African, Russian, Indian, Native, male, female, old, young and EVERY THING in between is... OUR... HISTORY.
We shouldn't have a month, the shortest by the way, to celebrate the achievements of a people who literally were brought over as property to this country. If we are to be more than we are as a nation then we should start with telling the stories of the nation, not just to the kids who look the men and women in the story, but to all the kids. The fact we still have racial divides while the very people who spread the hate are using inventions, creations and resources created by the very people we claim to hate is crazy in this day and age. If you are curious as to some of those, check out this (link) to an article listing a few black inventors that created things, or a variation of those creations, we still use today. How can we hate and benefit from the product of that which we hate? Seems hypocritical.
In the end, it isn't about the month. It is about a nation that still works hard to tell stories in a way that fuel whoever is in charge. If you hadn't read my blog Trumped A King , you should because I talk about how, as a young black man, I never really knew that whites marched and fought with Dr. King for our civil rights. It made me realize that you don't have to be in power to taint a story. I love that we have a month to celebrate our history but, to be honest, I don't need a month. I need a lifetime of celebrating the history, not HIS-story, of our nation and our world.
I challenge you, if you are one of those sharing types, to not just share great stories of other people and cultures on a certain "designated" day or month, but year around. We have so much unheard history that the voices of change have fallen to whispers or gone silent in many cases. Dr. King said he had a dream. I have a belief that we can do this better, not just for the black man and woman, but for all of us.
Just A Thought, my friends.