For my grandmothers
who pleaded the Blood
over their families.
for your praying hands
that fed us.
“The mandate for Black people in this time is to avenge the suffering of our ancestors, to earn the respect of future generations, and to be transformed in service to the work.” – Mary Hooks
When I was growing up and February rolled around, you were guaranteed to see kente cloth. You better believe you were going to be singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X were the embodiment of black excellence, and you’d better believe some children were gonna play those roles in a church play.
It’s 2018 and many people are questioning whether or not it all still matters. My response: More than it ever has.
If you google Black History Month 2018, this will come up in big and bold lettering:
“Black History Month 2018 in the United States of America began on Thursday, February 1 and ends on Wednesday, February 28.”
In the people-also-ask-section of the Black History Month search, the question, “What is the point of Black History Month?” comes up…. How I wish the given response were an image of Emmett Till.
“Let the people see what I’ve seen.” – Mamie Till
Also, according to the internet, May 21st is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. April is, in fact, Diversity Celebration Month. According to the ‘net.
This should be noted: Black History Month is not the same as Diversity Appreciation Month. They are two different celebrations with different goals. Two different causes.
The issue with appreciation days and months is that it suggests there is an expiration date on what we are celebrating. But, if ignored, unobserved or glossed over, we end up promoting silos and, in some cases, willful ignorance.
Don’t get it twisted.
We’ve made some gains, but many things remain unchanged. And Langston Hughes’ poem, “A Dream Deferred,” still remains true, especially for black people in the south.
Truth be told, our classic black heroes are just as significant now as they ever were, but today’s youth seem to be getting bored with them.
If our youth are no longer galvanized by Rosa Parks, my hope is that Sandra Bland is inspiring their fight. If a young man doesn’t want to put on a pair of glasses and strike a finger-to-temple pose, perhaps he will identify with puttting on a hoodie and holding a bag of skittles in his hand. I support the idea of re-imagining Black History Month, but I don’t think redefining it is necessary. And the erasure of it is just not an option. Not when we are still living on our grandmothers’ prayers. Not when Africa has been referred to as a “shithole country”.
Let’s say Black History Month were given a “makeover” and young people started creating new heroes and finding new people to embody. Here’s what needs to be maintained:
Yes, all of the above should be a sustainable practice that happens throughout the year, but Black History Month clearly has staying power. And I’m here for it.
I will always be here for it.
Our black history heroes, sung and unsung, are elements of my world that show up in my walk daily.
My fidelity to the mandate up top is the key to my authenticity and my own staying power.
I am Black. And I am so very proud.
Clinnesha D. Sibley is an award-winning playwright and published poet/essayist. She is the Literary Arts Instructor at Mississippi School of the Arts in Brookhaven, MS. For more information, please visit: http://onepagerapp.com/clinneshadsibley.