Reclaiming Our History: The notion that Black history ends in February is unforgivably wrong

When California State Representative Maxine Waters sliced through Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s question-dodging last July with three words, “reclaiming my time,” she represented defiance and courage in the face of President Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet.
I think we need to display similar courage and similar defiance in the face of how we view Black history. And so, I’m here to say, it’s time to reclaim our history.
When Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926, it was done with the intent to ultimately ensure that Black history is taught perpetually.
It wasn’t meant to be a stopgap. It was meant to be a paradigm shift.
Yet here we are.
This failure to build on Woodson’s legacy — and, more importantly, his urgency — created a world where folks prefer and pretend to understand Black heroes. As a result, the interpretations of Black historical figures lack accuracy and integrity.
Take a familiar Black figure — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are so far from understanding his pursuit of economic justice that, just last month, Ram ran a Super Bowl ad with an excerpt of Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech.
It goes without saying that the ad displayed commercialism at its most crass. Yet as I sat and watched this commercial play during the Super Bowl, I witnessed as some folks nodded in agreement with the commentary.
That commercial is a perfect example of why we need to reclaim our history.
Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech (look it up via Google!) is an anti-capitalist message that not only SPECIFICALLY criticized car ads, it also challenged listeners to not keep up with the Joneses.
Too often, we allow our heroes to be co-opted. We allow their movements to be used for commercial gain, and in some cases, to power other movements at our expense.
Recently, Dr. King’s name has been invoked in the argument against illegal immigration. The conversation that includes DACA and the DREAMers has included Dr. King’s familiar “I Have a Dream” speech.
I understand the concerns of those who are fighting for DACA and consider themselves DREAMers. I will also acknowledge that the original dreamers in America are the descendants of slaves (DOS) who built this country — Black people.
If government and the populace are willing to support the rights of (formerly) illegal immigrants, then we need to have that same energy and drive when it comes to talking about reparations for DOS.
Reclaiming our history isn’t only about reclaiming our heroes, though. It’s about reclaiming our honor.
Take Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. Whitewashing of history has led to negative reviews of Brother Malcolm and the Panthers.
The former Malcolm Little wasn’t the bloodthirsty and unrepentant extremist that America paints him out to be. He was a conscientious leader who loved Black people. Less than a year before his death, he founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Those outlets promoted Muslim faith — regardless of race — and highlighted beautiful Black pride.
The Black Panthers, meanwhile, weren’t just gun-toting “thugs.” Their ten-point program highlighted self-protection, yes, but also ensured that the youth in the community were fed.
And still, reclaiming our history is about more than heroes and honor.
It’s also about heralding the forgotten.
Last year, I had a chance to learn about local Black history when I spoke out against the supremacist obelisk that sits in downtown North Augusta, S.C. I learned about the brave Black militia that fought and died in the Hamburg Massacre.
In all my years of journalism, it was only last year, and in the time of his passing, that I learned of the legacy of Simeon Booker. He was a trailblazer in this field — the first Black journalist at The Washington Post. He is credited with helping to present the story of Emmitt Till’s murder to a national audience.
My ultimate point is this — Black history doesn’t stop in February. We need to reclaim our history so that we can truly reclaim our time — not only in the present, but also the past, so that we can ensure our future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: