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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Black History Month - A Summary

So, over the last twenty-seven days, I've featured twenty-seven different entries that have ties to “Black History Month”. Many of them were tied to pop culture events, but there were a few entries that put the focus on historical events and contributions as well.

So, for this, the final day of February, I thought that I would write a diary entry about why I made the decision to do a “Black History Month” in this blog, what I learned from doing this theme month, whether I'll try this again next February...and I'll talk about the only disappointment that I've experienced this past month.

Intrigued yet? Keep reading.

February 28, 2013

Another Thursday has arrived, and another month is about to be bid adieu. It's February 28th today, and as I look out my window, there is still lots of snow and slush outside. It's a wonder that a posse of people from my hometown haven't threatened to hunt down Wiarton Willie and stuff him the same way a taxidermist would. But, I'm not that vicious. I'm just as content to smile and curse that groundhog from the depths of my mind.

But I'm not writing these lines to talk about the weather, or listing ways in which we can get rid of the groundhog permanently. Instead, I'm here to talk about what I have learned this past month from doing a month long feature in my blog that could be challenging as well as rewarding to do.

I had made the decision to make February 2013 “Black History Month” quite some time ago. Looking back on what I had chosen for blog topics in February 2012, I didn't really do justice to “Black History Month” at all. In fact, if I can remember some of the topics that I wrote about in February 2012, the only one that stands out was the death of Whitney Houston. Other than that event, I don't think I wrote any other topics about black entertainers, artists, authors, or historical figures at that time. And, considering that the month of February was a month that was set aside to teach people all about the vast contributions of black people, I was kind of disappointed in myself that I completely ignored that last year.

So, I suppose that sort of weighed heavily in my decision to create a “Black History Month” in this blog for this year. I wouldn't necessarily say that I did it out of guilt though. It was more along the lines of making up for lost opportunity.

The opportunity to make a statement about something.

This whole month has been an exercise in awareness. Not just for the African-American, African-Canadian, etc population, but for everybody in general. I'll even admit to learning quite a bit about myself while I was doing topics for this blog.

Firstly, I had no idea just how much of a challenge it was trying to find topics of discussion for this month. That's not to say that I didn't have fun trying – I always loved a challenge. It's just that some theme days were a bit harder to choose topics for than others (Saturdays and Wednesdays were especially frustrating this month). I'm thinking that for next year, I'll temporarily change the theme days around a smidgen so that way, I can just sit down at my trusty computer and just type whatever topic comes to my mind first.

Secondly, I had absolutely no idea just how many unsung heroes there were in black history throughout the years. Of course, we all knew about the main leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. But, when I was doing my research for this month's set of blogs, I learned so much more. I had no idea that Maya Angelou was such a key player in the Civil Rights Movement, and that she had ties to both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. On that note, I had absolutely no idea of the struggles that Maya Angelou herself went through in her own life until I started reading excerpts from “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”.

Of course, we all know that the world was a lot different just a few decades ago. It's hard to excuse the fact that there was once a time in which white men gathered around a park or a public place just to see a black man get hanged.

It's also tough to view images like the one up above. The student in question is Elizabeth Eckford, one of the so-called “Little Rock Nine”. The photo was taken in 1957, at a time in which the state of Arkansas was experimenting with desegregating schools. Nine black students were to attend school at a previously all-white high school. As you can see, poor Elizabeth had to endure incredible abuse on her first day of school. It seems almost bizarre to even think that things like that even went on at that time, but they did. It's just a grim reminder of how many hardships people of colour had to go through just to get some of the rights that many of us now take for granted.

I mean, even in 2013, while we've come a long way, there are still instances of racial abuse, racial profiling, and discrimination. I just don't understand why in 2013, there are still so many people who have so much hatred towards people because of something that they cannot change.

In the case of the Little Rock Nine, talk show host Oprah Winfrey invited seven of the nine onto her show as guests in 1996 to talk about their experiences, as well as bringing on some of the people who would hurl insults and physical abuse onto them when they were there. It was difficult to hear exactly what some of the people went through there, but at the end, everyone found some sense of closure, and there were plenty of apologies and forgiveness witnessed that day.

But I don't think that the surviving members of the Little Rock Nine will ever forget what they experienced, nor should they.

Part of the reason why “Black History Month” exists is because we all need to know just how hard people of colour struggled just to get equal rights in North America. In some nations, that struggle still goes on.

Just think about it for a second. Imagine having to go through life without the ability to have a say in which political candidates get elected into office, or being forced to eat at a different restaurant or drink from a different water fountain, or being subjected to abuse and vandalism because you happen to be the minority in a neighbourhood. It wouldn't be much fun, would it? Yet, that was the harsh reality that people of colour had to endure for decades before the Civil Rights Movement formed. That's why I think it's important to have “Black History Month” because we must not forget how hard it was for them to fight for their rights. Besides, people of colour have brought a lot to our world.

We wouldn't have had successful open heart surgeries had one man not fought hard to become a doctor. We wouldn't have had ironing boards, mops, golf tees, and bicycles had it not been for the innovations by black inventors. Heck, we wouldn't be enjoying potato chips had it not been for a black chef (though as we all learned, that invention came as a method of revenge that didn't quite work out).

The point is that there's a lot of interesting footnotes under the subject of Black History, and the stories and inventions and innovations that can be found within it are fascinating, eye-opening, and beautiful.

That leads to the only disappointment that I had about doing a feature on “Black History Month”. This month has been one in which the page views have dropped a bit, and that disappoints me. But, it's not because of the fact that I am doubting my writing ability or because I'm mad about people not reading my work. We all have our peaks and valleys when it comes to getting an audience. I'm more disappointed that people don't seem to share the same passion about “Black History Month” as I and many other people do. In many ways, having just a month for Black History doesn't seem near enough because there are so many more stories to tell.

And, that's why I plan to devote next February to “Black History Month” as well. I think that I have told a lot of stories and tales that were fascinating and informed a lot of people...but there's so much more that still needs to be told. And, unfortunately, I couldn't do it all in just one month.

And, I guess that's all I have to say about that. February is now over, and we're heading into March. And, already, I'm thinking about topics for next year.

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