I looked at the magazine with the bold title that stated Black History Month emblazon across it with an inviting font for any who wished to learn or reeducate. It wasn’t a very big magazine, in fact it was closer to a pamphlet, or if I was to be more flattering of its size I’d say it was children’s book thick. if this collection of pictures and words was a woman it would’ve known I was lying and either slap me for being so rude, or walk away at such an exaggeration about her mediocre frame. But this piece of history, my history, was inanimate and couldn’t rightfully respond to my thought in kind. Instead it just laid there. At first I was bothered by the meager size. Don’t judge the book by its cover, I know, but the lack of mass made me not only judge, but executioner in that moment. I already was dreading the lack of a true and full history, awaiting me on the interior. As I stared at the cover, wondering if I should even bother waking the black hulk inside of me, with what I believed to be the prejudged annoyance that laid between those sheets, I noticed something else. There was a picture of what seemed to be a young black woman’s eyes. The pic was black and white but I made what I consider a great discernment that she was black. Perhaps it was the title that sparked this Sherlock Holmes like brilliance. What I also discovered through my magnified psyche was what the young lady’s eyes said. They were sad and in, what I saw, as pain. Instantly I felt sorry for her without even knowing her story. I imagined that if that cameraman had pulled back 3 or 4 feet, I’d find a scene from one of those “Adopt an African child, for a $1 a day commercials”. Complete with the “Arms of an Angel” crooning of Annie Lennox, soundtrack to help drive home the disparity. And then it hits me. Is this what black history looks like? Is this what we consider a positive representation of black people, in a month that is said to celebrate them? Sad, pitiful and in need of help? Downtrodden, poor and in tears? Is this the poster child of Black History Month?
I’m not one to believe in the necessity of a black history month period. Black history should be as celebrated as any other history, and treated with the same respect. It should be taught in schools, with just as much focus as other cultures. The John F. Kennedy story can’t be told without the Martin Luther King part. Just as the story of Martin shouldn’t be left without a reference to Gandhi finding inspiration in him. This should be year-round and not regulated to a month. My history is not any more important than yours, and it’s not any less important! But fine, February is the month, come and gone, and of course I understand why. There’s is a void and perhaps for now this is the most sand we can get to fill this black hole. The world is more concerned with what is than what should be. So, February is the closest you’ll ever get to a 40 acres and mule.
All I’m asking is, must the mule be old and sick? And does the 40 acres have to be in the desert?!?!? Our history did not begin with slavery! I know I know, that’s one of those “we all know this” things, right? Well apparently, the publishers and writers of this book, I mean magazine, I’m sorry pamphlet failed to recognize. Why not a picture of a great Egyptian Pharaoh on the front? Or how about Mansa Musa the richest black man ever!! Estimated the 4th richest man in history! Like the movie about one of our greatest we “Once We’re Kings”! But why do we seem to have to be regulated to a story that starts with us in chains rather than adorned in gold ones when the story is relayed? Nothing about Nat Turner’s revolt or the Maroons rebellion against their enslavers. No mention of the strength and resilience the people of that time really showed. Our history didn’t end with civil rights either!! I know I know more redundant facts from Slang Hugh huh? But the photographer for this cover seems to need a reminder. Hey why not let a regal picture of great inventor George Washington Carver, or the beauty of the brave Viola Desmond, the Canadian Rosa Parks, grace the cover? Or how about representing our present victories such as business magnate Michael Lee Chin?
I wish I could tell you that I opened the book and the first pages made this entire blog entry unnecessary. I wish I could say that. But as predicted the sigh barely had time to rest in between my fears and actuality. The actuality, was that the fears were warranted. Page 1 to 5 of a 15-page booklet was about slavery and the underground railroad, which brought many blacks to Canada. Such a rich and monarchial his and her story reduce to whips, chains, and brutal fights for freedom. And with that I have a simple request. Well simple to me. Keep the little girl for the cover, but next time have her smiling and in a strong stance with her black fist up in pride! Because despite all that struggle you printed on pages 1 through 5, Page -100 to 0 would show why we were strong enough and proud enough to not only survive but thrive!! And that is truly BLACK HISTORY.