WaPo has a piece up about the debate within the African-American community over whether to continue observing Black History Month.
One person who wants to scrap the observance altogether is Shukree Hassan Tilghman, who has created a documentary about his campaign to do away with it. The St. Louis Beacon talked to him about the project:
“I really loved it as a kid. I loved the sense of empowerment and learning about all these people who were superheroes like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. But as I got older, I felt like I was just learning about the same thing and I got kind of tired of it,” said Tilghman. “Then I heard Morgan Freeman criticizing Black History Month, and it was a pivotal movement for me because someone else said what I was thinking in public.”
I can understand where Tilghman is coming from. Black History Month has become something like the Athenians’ altar to An Unknown God. In fact, in some ways, the very ubiquity of “Black History Month” celebrations has eroded any real contribution the month might have made. Like Christmas, it’s becoming divorced from its original meaning, and is transforming into something you just do because that’s what we’ve always done. The intention was to get people thinking about black history, but now it’s something we do without thinking.
Maybe instead of a Black History Month, we need some sort of “Black History is American History” Month, where the focus would be on the integral role the African-American presence has played in every stage of American history.
You can learn more about the documentary at the official website. It airs on PBS this month, so check your listings. Looks interesting.