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MY Black History Month

February 3, 2012

We don’t need it. I don’t celebrate it. There’s a debate about whether Black History Month is important and/or necessary. Last year, I explored black writers who’ve influenced my own writing. It was an exciting journey for me and propelled me to search for more voices from inspiring black voices. Black History Month never really stopped after February 28th and I found myself buying more books (see above, with the exception of Freedom Like Sunlight and Alice Walker’s Poems, those are all new books). Recently I got a gift card for a bookstore and without realizing until I reached home, bought three books authored by black female writers.

Black History Month is necessary for a lot of reasons. Some may argue that these ‘events’ can be overwhelming and seem ineffectual to making real change towards issues in the Black community. I see the gathering of anti-oppressive groups engaging in dialogue a success in itself. These gatherings are opportunities to connect with community, to learn and share history and heritage and meet people passionate about cultural roots. My dear sister, Rootz Kizzy graciously invited me to the writing circle Womenz Wordz, a family of female writers who’ve drastically changed my experience in Toronto and in this circle, 3 cities was born. I met her at a Black History event hosted by Toronto Public Housing.

Some argue Black History Month recycles the same stories, where I would argue that young people that I work with are more knowledgeable about black trailblazers than I was at their age. In a workshop, a young man asked me who was my favourite Black History Month hero, a question I was never asked before (I think I saw Angela Davis). I was moved that young faces recognized old faces.

Some argue that we don’t need Black History Month because ‘nobody thinks like that anymore’. To this I say, turn on the news. Racial profiling, civil war on the continent,  black-on-black gang violence and an abundance of racism, breed from both hate and ignorance is the reality of today’s times. One month can’t end racism, but I believe it’s a time to underscore these issues on a public platform.

I understand the frustration with the ‘feel good’ of Black History Month verse the active and militant obligations to better the status of black people. Change is constant but change takes time. Love and knowledge are first steps that can not be skipped. For me, Black History Month is essential and if it is for you too, read on.

This is MY Black History Month

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2012 2:50 pm

    Great post! I appreciate your succinct insights and I concur with your perspective. There can never be too much light shed on the black experience, particularly when so much of Black American history has been intentionally altered, fabricated, or left out completely.

    I find that there is so much more to learn and to be proud of. As you said, “read on.”

    Thanks for sharing.


    • February 3, 2012 2:56 pm

      Thanks for involving yourself in the dialogue Kevin. Yes, much history has been as you put it ‘altered, fabricated and left out completely’. Without this conversation, we’ll be unable to put the pieces together and understand a true and complete narrative. Hope you’ll visit again.

  2. anitaabbasi permalink
    February 6, 2012 9:17 pm

    the spirit that Black History Month imparts is one I wish permeates all months of the year. The fact that there is a necessity for a discriminated social group to have a period at one point of the year devoted to celebrating their enriching influence and hearing their cause, whether it’s BHM or the International Day (just one?) for the Elimination of Racism or International Women’s Day or Pride Week, etc. it shows the amount of work that still needs to be done.

    I just wish more people, more than the affected social groups, are willing to discuss this openly and speak honestly, and grow through dialogue whenever, wherever.

  3. February 8, 2012 1:33 am

    That’s the dilemma with ‘awareness’ days, weeks or months. They are time-sensative and drop out of people’s consciousness at the stroke of midnight. Underrepresented groups are allotted a time to shine and then when the magic is over, society resumes to their own lives. This cannot and will not counter the damage of discrimination.

    Again, I believe we can use BHM and other heritage recognition dates to springboard into, like you suggest, open discourse. Do we have other alternatives, and if so, how do we maximize awareness?

    Thanks for the comment Anita


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