Saturday, February 6, 2010

Every Month is Black History Month

Collegiate Times

Remember contributions every month, not just one

Thursday, February 4, 2010; 9:46 PM | by Biko Agozino, guest columnist
Black History Month is every month because there is no month without a significant black history event.
The question of whether one month is enough to celebrate black history is possible today because of the success of activist scholars such as Carter G. Woodson, who started it as the Negro History Week in 1926. He chose the week in February that marks both the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln to honor their contributions to the abolition of slavery. From one week to one month is a leap that some may not have imagined possible when Woodson was starting the series because back then, otherwise learned scholars still believed the misinformation from philosophers such as Hegel that African people made no significant contribution to history.
It is good to know that the Collegiate Times is asking the rhetorical question whether one month is enough to celebrate the immense contributions of Africans to history. Such a question suggests that there is a genuine desire on the part of students to learn more about Africana people and so they wonder whether one month would be adequate to learn all that they need to know. In a sense, the question suggests that the students already hypothesize that every month is Black History Month.
This is a healthy thirst for knowledge that a program such as our Africana Studies Program in the Department of Sociology is here to satisfy with courses on subjects such as Introduction to African American Studies, Introduction to African Studies, African American History, The Black Woman in America, African and Caribbean Literature, The Black Church in America, Race and Social Policy, Special Topics, Africana Contributions to Science and Technology, Africana Research Methods, etc.
Students who take five such courses would qualify for a Minor in Africana studies. Such students could demonstrate diversity contents in the education received here at Tech, making employers look more favorably at them and equipping them with the diversity imagination that they would need to go into business for themselves if they choose.
In other words, people should not treat Black History Month events as rituals to be engaged in once a year but as a reminder of the immense contributions that people of African descent have made and continue to make to world history. A skeptic might wonder why we still need to celebrate a Black History Month if every month is indeed Black History Month. Such skepticism can be answered in two ways.
First, Black History Month is an African-American gift to the world that has since been internationalized following its adoption by Canada and the U.K. This is something for all Americans to be proud of — an innovation of theirs is becoming a truly international phenomenon. Someday, it may become a global event across the entire world.
Second, following the success of Black History Month, other groups have also innovated their specialized history months as opportunities to teach the immense contributions of other racial and ethnic groups to civilization and the enduring problems that others still face in an unequal world.
Such spin-offs serve to reassure people of African descent that the commemoration of history by people who were marginalized for a long time — and whose contributions were denied or denigrated — remains a worthwhile endeavor especially given that racial and gender inequalities still persist in addition to problems of poverty that tend to conceal the huge sacrifices and struggles that the marginalized have gone, and are still going, through.
The cost that the world paid for the ignorant propaganda that black men and black women made no significant contributions to civilization was that such false notions were used to support systems of racial, gender and class exclusion, oppression and exploitation that caused the world so much grief and also denied the world the greater contributions that many gifted people from the Africana community could have made for the betterment of all.
For instance, so many American students today are getting the opportunity to go to universities and better themselves; such opportunities were reserved for the rich until former enslaved Africans started demanding public funds to be spent on public higher education for the befit of all Americans.
According to W.E.B. Du Bois, this demand for land and learning by the Freedmen’s Associations resulted in the public universities that are responsible for the education of a lot of American college students today who could not have afforded the exorbitant costs of private colleges. Although there was a lot of opposition to this demand for publicly funded institutions of higher learning during the era of Black Reconstruction post Civil War, it is now obvious that public higher education does not benefit only black students.
Finally, all human beings descended from Africa and so the celebration of Black History Month should be supported by all as an opportunity to learn more about our common heritage. We all should resolve to adhere to the principles of community by avoiding hateful and harmful conducts that are the result of prejudice and ignorance. We should resolve that we will strive to study Black history as part of world history instead of clinging to the false notion that some people have not made significant contributions to civilization. Black History Month is not just for black people, it is for everyone and it is not just a single month, it is every month.

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