(Photo Dorothy Counts 15 years old, North Carolina 1957)
I've never had any sort of love for Black History Month. Although I have tried my best to find my place in this month, using it as a tool to uplift and amplify what I already do every month, I hate February. I don’t hate it because I hate Black history. I hate Black history month because I hate the diluted, whitewashed version of Black History that we are fed on a silver platter by America every February. This is all done in an effort to make it feel as if we, as an American society, are fully progressive and in acknowledgement of the past, pain, and systems that sustain this country. America pretends in this one month, that these things happened but are not still happening. And the only reason it is being properly represented now in 2017, is because of social media. Because of Black people (and some allies) taking this month and knocking the white washing out of it and teaching true history that most of us never learned in school. Every February many white platforms focus solely on people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and not on anybody that white society isn’t able to change to fit their own narrative. Many white people talk about how brave Martin Luther King was. But not the real reasons why he needed to be brave. Then In an instant this same man is used against us as Black people whenever we think for ourselves and don't replicate ideals that 100% align with him and his need to send love to oppressors. Most white people that highlight his work have no idea who the fuck he was as a man. They never talk about how he adapted and changed his stances on many issues. White people didn't give him the ability to finish evolving because he was shot for existing in the only way Black Americans are told to do so. He was meek, loving, and kind. MLK gave white Americans what they wanted and he was killed for it anyway.
Many white Americans use this month to speak about Black oppression as if it no longer still affects people, as if people arent still dying because of it. Meanwhile they label anyone that fought against white supremacy without being nice to white supremacists, as terrorists & rebels. This is the reason that people like Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, Malcom X, Stokely Carmichael, & Fred Hampton are not often reguarded as positive Black activists. This is why these people are not taught in most schools, because in America in order to be accepted as a Black freedom fighter, you have to adhere to white hate. Kindly educate, love and respect the hand that slaps you, teach, but don't call out white ignorance, privilege, or make white people feel guilt whatsoever. Black history did not start with Martin Luther King. Black history did not start with the Jim Crow era. Black history did not start with the Civil Rights Movement. Black history did not start with slavery.
To speak about Black history we must speak only in the truth. That truth has to reflect the history of racism, colonization, genocide, environmental racism, and forced assimilation of black people along with other minority groups. The truth must also include the beauty. Black art and Black excellence. We must speak about our history but remember that history is still among us. That this painful yet beautifully diverse history helped to build this "The Land Of The Free."
Speak about the fact that this is a country that still celebrates colonization in the form of national holidays and the elected president. We can not speak about Black History in the past tense when the mere mention of privilege causes most white people to be sent into a bitter rage. Which then leads them to insult, dismiss, talk over, and avoid people of color. That includes many of those calling themselves allies to us. We, Black people, are living Black history. We must speak about Black history while including what internalizing this hate that we receive has done to the Black community inside of itself. It’s pointless if we don’t also use this month, as we should use all months, my Black people, to also try to dismantle colorism, misogynoir, and homophobia. You do not love Blackness if you don't love all Blackness. The dark kind, the light kind, the fat kind, the immigrant kind, the Muslim kind, the descendants of slaves kind, the Jewish kind, the mixed kind, the sex worker kind, the trans kind, the gay kind, the gender non conforming kind, the woman kind. All Black Lives Matter.
So I cannot talk about Black history in the past tense until I feel safe walking on the street as a Black person in America. I cannot talk about Black history in the past tense until cops and white people stop killing us for the color of our skin. I cannot talk about Black history in the past tense until men stop raping us because we are Black woman. I can not talk about Black history in the past tense when I am still asked to separate my womanness from my Blackness. I cannot talk about Black history in the past tense until Black parents do not have “the talk” with Black children about how to survive in America. I cannot talk about Black history in the past tense until we are treated like equal human beings. Because until then this is still Black history.
Remember that this month is nothing without the works of Black activists and Black artists creating and educating. Giving ourselves, our energy, and our resources to make sure this month and all months have depth and true history. If you want to celebrate Black History, do more then celebrate how hard we love you back despite how you hurt us. Celebrate our fight and our resistance. Celebrate our ability to create despite what has been taken from us. Celebrate the uniqueness of our Black culture. That we could be kidnapped from all different parts of Africa, speaking different languages, yet together form subculture on this soil that still exists today, despite most of us never knowing our full ancestral or geographical connections. Celebrate the diversity of Black minds because Black excellence is more extensive than just the inventors and the scholars. Celebrate our beauty. Celebrate our works even when we didn't get famous for it. Celebrate social media for giving us a platform and helping many of us to find our voices. Celebrate even what you do not agree with. All Black people are Black History.