Summarizing Black History Month – It is all just a joke? (a guest post)

Today on BnB, we simultaneously wrap up Black History Month and Smart Guest Post Week. Our final contributor is a future muckety-muck somewhere in DC, I guarantee it. I call him "the Captain" but others may know him as SpkTruth2Pwr, the voice of The Apathy Remedy and a driving force behind The Younger Writers' Block. Show him some love.

As Black History Month (BHM) comes to an end, I would love to do a post-BHM wrap up.

You know- a post on how the story of our black ancestors is a story of hope in the midst of struggle and how black history month is an ode and a perpetual lesson for not only black people but also all people in America.

But instead, I can only approach the end of BHM with sadness.


I went to a Black History Month play this weekend. It was a community church production called "From the Slave House to the White House."

It wasn't a large crowd - mostly teens attending as part of a program. I was looking forward to it, The message behind it was progress and how our ancestors' perseverance made each generation keep pushing to make life better for future generations. I enjoyed myself.

But when I looked around, the picture I saw was disgusting and disappointment.

The teens, who were all black, were completely not engaged. The few that managed to view every now and then could not control or stifle their laughter.

  • When the actresses performed an African Dance routine, some of the teens would mimic them between a few stifled giggles and hi-fives.
  • When the actress on stage used the vernacular of an uneducated slave, the teens would crudely mimic the accent within their cliques.
  • When an actress screamed in fear of being caught by "massah" because they were sneaking off to read the Bible, the teens ridiculed her.
  • When the "slave child" lamented as she was torn from her mother's arms, the teens laughed and pointed.

I don't know. Maybe it's because my parents both can remember going to segregated schools. Maybe it's because I know that even though my grandparents were not slaves, they were bound by a system that left them dependent on the master who controlled them - sharecropping was just a euphemism for slavery.

But I was disgusted. To laugh at that history was to laugh at themselves. And the sad thing - they could not realize it or see past it because they were living to be "cool".

In the same way they laughed at the slaves' dance of jubilation, or the servant eager to read, society has done the same to these kids. And rather than being conscious of that fact - they have joined in and laughed as well at the notion that they themselves could actually be more than what they are labeled and expected to be.

It is an ignorance of self. I could dissect the root causes, and pontificate on the disconnect between the youth and their elders, technology, media, blah blah blah. It is important to treat the problem and not the symptoms, so making the connection to the actual problem is important.

But really I believe it all feeds in to a central theme - the Millennial Generation is ashamed of their history. I mean that past is not cool right? Slaves weren't rocking the latest in fashion were they? They were clearly some Bammas. Blacks of the past were largely a bunch of have nots, right? That's wack, weak, lame. Why keep focusing on all that trivial stuff and those largely vague themes - freedom, equality, struggle, justice, and opportunity? It's embarrassing to keep bringing up those days when we were largely uneducated, largely forgotten, and largely disrespected. We have moved on up with George and Weezy right?

Well sadly those days have gotten a bit brighter, but they have not passed to yesterday.

  • Those same laughing teens represent a population with a higher nationwide proportion of dropouts from high school.
  • Those same laughing teens represent a population that doesn't "have it all" - 24 percent of blacks live below the poverty line compared to 13 percent of the nation (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Those same laughing teens represent a population where 38 percent of black teens in America live with both parents. The next lowest was Hispanics, with 69 percent. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Those same laughing teens are being laughed at for willingly keeping themselves ignorant by neglecting their own history.

The message behind the play was good. But the teens in the audience were too busy thinking "that progress thing" was for another time, another wack/lame generation.

And it is that perpetuation of the disconnect with our history that will work against the progress so many of our ancestors fought to gain.

I was disappointed because these teens had no idea that as each chuckle escaped their lips, they were slowly drowning out the very hope and struggle that had allowed them to freely sit in that theatre. That with each joke at the expense of the "slave" in the play, they were trivializing the path to progress for blacks in America.

And if it is one thing that makes us look ignorant as a people, it is removing collective progress from our vision of success, and replaced it with our own interpretation.

We have the spirituals of the slaves, the courage of the freedom riders, the honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, the teachings of DuBois, the dream of Martin, the examples of countless black innovators and originators, and the inspiration of Barack. The only thing that is lacking is the youths to take these and continue marching onward and upward in the name of perpetual advancement.

But like a lion raised in captivity - no matter how great the potential to be a proud king, the lion will never see past its cage and hand-fed meals.

The cage of these black youths I saw was the cage of their own mind, and their own lacking sense of history. And because of that, they are willing to take what they are given, rather than demanding what they have the potential to achieve. And so they sit, never knowing they should hope for more - choosing to remain as nothing more than the next exhibit in the zoo that is society.

Only when our black young minds connect where they came from with their present and where they need to go will the faith of our ancestors continue inspiring the march toward advancement and expand our black history, which in turn will add another link in the chain of progress that has been American history.

What say you BougieLand? When did you start appreciating your Black History? What's will it take to drag these Millennials towards the reality check they so clearly have coming? Any final thoughts on Black History Month?