With all of the respect that I can express in writing to Carter G. Woodson and the foresight he exercised to create what we all now know of as Black History Month, I lovingly offer this declaration to all of my people with the intention of both sobering and straightening our collective consciousness: It is April…and we are still black. For all of April going in to May we will still be black and for the remaining eight months of the year until we arrive back at February again, we will yet still be African Americans. In light of this revelation, may you and I take this humble avowal as license to maintain the afrocentricity. activism, appreciation, & affection that we tend to travel in February and elongate it into a perpetual practice.
It might seem rudimentary or even laughable for me to suggest something that would appear so obvious to us all with an air of profoundness, but as we are now a month removed from the designated, federally approved time for us to acknowledge the African American contributions to the social landscape of this country and others, there appears to be a peculiar problem that reoccurs amongst our people.
It seems as if we ratchet our cultural pride up to beautifully high levels during Black History Month, hearkening back to the bravery, brilliance, and blessedness of our people. We often share with our children stories of the sojourn our ancestors had to make and the suffering they endured; suffixing those stories with truth what they did then enables us to live as we do now. We even trace our legacy back to the birthplace of civilization, Africa, in order to create a sense of royal lineage that counterbalances the notion of uncivilized cannibalism that is portrayed by those who would oppress us. We do all of this both regularly and religiously and it is a wonderful experience year after year. And then we get to March…
Suddenly, and without little to no resistance, we revert to the polar opposite of what we were the previous month. Somehow, we transform into a people with seemingly no knowledge of our history and no interest in it either. What happens to us?? Have we fallen more in love with a society who tells us what to be than with who we truly are? Believing that there is no need for constant cultural recognition does no favor for the African American. By pretending that things are perfectly alright just the way they are, we all but ensure that they will never change. I, again, restate my premise in the same mode of love that I initiated it with: We are still black
You and I are still black so it is acceptable for us to still express our pride in our people, show faith in our families, and to hold up a full perspective of our history; one that doesn’t begin in slavery and end with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Since we are black for more than a month, dressing in ways reflective of our heritage and demonstrating our pride in that heritage isn’t outdated or ill-timed. In fact, if we aren’t careful, it might even become a stylish alternative to what we see presently. Being black after the last day of February means that we can expect more than just annual speeches disguised as solutions from all of the elected officials, politicians, community leaders who want to talk to us about the issues that affect our people. The need for us, as a people, to come together, speak out, stand up, sit-in, march, demonstrate, and protest can be an ever-present standard for us to aspire to because the ills our people face require more than a reactionary resistance that happens for twenty eight days.
It is a good thing that we are still black, to know that ours is a constant and continual blackness. This means that phrases such “Black is beautiful”, “I’m Black and I’m Proud”, “Black Power”, “Dark & Lovely” and the like are not convenient clichés but terms that define and embody our value every single day of our lives. For us to be black every day suggests that everything that good about it applies every day. Embracing what we know ourselves to be will keep us from accepting what others attempt to delimit us as.
As a people, we must be wary of allowing a month that recognizes African Americans to lull us into a seasonal sense of being that depreciates our value. No one thing should be able dictate to us when or how to love one another. Engaging the beauty of our culture in such a limited way was not what Dr. Woodson had in mind. We must expand on his idea and grow into a consistent and continual appreciation for the way God created us.
The same love that God has for us, unending, unbreakable, and unconditional is the same love that we need to begin to exemplify for one another if we are ever to gain access to all God has for us. We are not a cursed people, but just as blessed and favored and full of Godly potential as any of our multicultural counterparts. To love ourselves is to affirm to beauty of the Spirit of God that dwells in us all. We are all reflections of the Most High. Created from the mold of our perfect Creator. May we all rediscover the collective beauty in our community and not confine it to a moment, a memory, or a month. With all of the exquisiteness & excellence that comes with it, remember that we are still black.