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February 24, 2014

Redefining Black History Month

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What is her message?

As we end February, this Black History Month, what would happen if you didn’t tell your black child about the trials and tribulations of the Black experience?

What if you didn’t tell your child about the bad experience of slavery, about the inequality Black Americans have endured. What if you didn’t tell your children about Jim Crow and the horrific experiences of the south, like lynching and racial prejudices and riding the back of the bus and not being able to participate in the American process because of skin color?

Suppose you didn’t tell your children about how Blacks have had to fight for basic American rights. Suppose you didn’t tell your children about the Black struggles and the first career breakthroughs? Are these things we should remember or should we forget? How do we shift from the negative to the positive?

Would our children be better off with a clean slate? Do we disturb young minds with the downtrodden experiences of blackness as we tell them of our history? What do we say to the white child about Black history? Do we care? Are their minds fresh to move forward or are they burdened with a handicap?

These are questions I ask this year as we consider the best picture of the year being the true story of “12 Years a Slave. The movie was upsetting to me. Why? It was just a bit too damn real, the history book came alive. My psychic was disturbed watching the slave girl beaten unmercifully over a scrap of soap. I have vowed not to see another slave movie because of it.

What did we endure and why? Life was far too too too hard. I don’t want to embrace the fullness of that American experience. Let it go. And then I wonder how and why still, in 2014, we celebrate and will probably award the untold slave story. I don’t want to see any more “Beloved” type stories. They are too painful. They evoke emotions of anger and sadness.

Slavery is America’s crime.

 

 

 

What do we do as we discuss these actions with our children. Do we help them or do we hinder them? What is the Black History Month message? Do we explain inferiority? Do we explain superiority? Do we say contain and maintain your anger or do we say express it?

Redefining?

I am not saying the history is not important, because indeed it is. But the history is sometimes so negative, I wonder if the image is more negative than it is positive? A new look, a new definition of Black History Month celebration is in question. We celebrate each other with awards and memories but the children are killing each other at the drop of a hat over trivialities. Why?

Do the history stories convey a Black life is unworthy, particularly the life of a Black male. Do we become accustomed to the misery, the hard work, the lesser than status as we celebrate the suffering and the denial and the second class citizenship of what we comfortably call “minority.” Where’s the context and the positiveness of Black History Month? I want to go beyond the firsts. I want to reveal the greatness.

I want the Black normality to shine and not the abnormality of endurance. I want to get pass the limitation stage that seems to be a constant. I want the freedom of  ‘you can be and do anything’ to shout loud. I want the beauty to be black and not trending. I don’t want to cross the street when I see the black boys on the corner.

I want the respect of blackness to ring and I don’t want the black special ad campaigns. I want the opportunity of the business of blackness to be full in America all year long. I want to go beyond the history book. I don’t want to hear the short slogans on Dr. King, I want to hear his meaning and essence. I want the fear of blackness to go away. I want the reality of now and how the history got us here and what to do about it.



About the Author

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Hermene Hartman
Hermene Hartman serves as President and CEO of the Chicago-based, Hartman Publishing Group, INC. NDIGO, was founded in 1989 and is a significant voice in Chicago. Hartman provides social commentary on WVAZ's 102.7 radio Monday - Friday at 9:15 a.m. She is an author and appears as a guest on TV with commentary. Ms. Hartman is the founder of The NDIGO Foundation, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which began in 1995, for the sole purpose of raising funds for educational pursuits.




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