Black History Month...OH YEAH

Karol Collymore

Hello Friends,

Its that time of year again, Black History Month!  The Afro-centric commercials, programming, and general Black hoopla rises up and then quiets down again in about 28 days.  I'm always fascinated by this celebration of Blackness, as it only exists one month out of the year. 

PBS is running a show called African American History where they trace the family tree of famous Black people.  But, the people featured are those who are universally excepted in the mainstream: Oprah, Quincy Jones, Chris Tucker.  On TV Land (obscure cable channel), there is a special running called, "That's What I'm Talkin' 'Bout!"  Its hosted by the very friendly Wayne Brady and guests join and talk about Blackness in entertainment and politics.  It's only running this month.  When I was telling my boyfriend about the show he said, "Who's Wayne Brady?"  Then he said, "Oh the Black guy."    My first response was to give him the dirtiest look I could followed by a "shoe on the other foot" lesson.  Then he helped me realize, its not his fault nor is it the fault of most people, even Blacks who commit the same descriptive foul every day. 

Black people made no impact on him because he never saw any in a positive light.  If a person's only Black reference growing up was Martin Luther King, Jr., what can I expect?  Black Americans are for the most part only constructed as negative images.  Well, except this one month of the year when they get to be stars! The other 11 months, we are...well, I don't know yet.  I'm waiting for a positive Black identity that is continuously shown in the media.  Great pains are taken to no longer reflect too many of the negatives, but I feel like we are still waiting for full integration.  For every MLK, there are many more who left marks as well.  Where is their history written or being shown?  Not just at a museum, mind you, but general knowledge!  If they hadn't been effective, who knows if I'd be writing this posting?   I hope that our children will learn more than either of us did about an important part of American history.  Although our children will be mixed, I do not want them referred to simply by their skin color (which will likely be a lovely shade of caramel).   

Sometimes I can go days in a row in Portland without seeing another Black person.   I go to work sometimes and think, "WOW, its really only me."  Other days I read magazines or watch TV and movies and I feel sad for the lack of color.  Its hard not seeing anyone that looks like yourself.I wish I could put into words exactly how it feels, but I can't.  But its kinda lonely.   Lest you think I dwell on it, I don't.  But every once and a while, I do a little.

It is my hope that we can continue to diversify history and media to make it inclusive of all the people that make up our country (I hate that the only Black centric shows are on Mondays on UPN.  I can't make it every week!).   What an achievement that will be.  But until then, when you talk about me, don't refer to me as "you know, the Black girl," because I - and all the rest of us - are so much more than that. 

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