Black History: The Lost Episodes
Black History Month is like one of those cheesy 80's sitcom reruns. Even though you know every punch line, word for word, you, somehow, find your eyes glued to the tube every time it comes on. The Black History Show opens with slaves picking cotton and singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" before being "freed" by Honest Abe Lincoln. Then a black seamstress will sit in the front of a bus, a black scientist will get milk from a peanut and a black southern preacher will lead them on a merry march to the Promised Land. Finally, a multi-racial choir will sing "We Shall Overcome" as the closing credits roll, thanking white owned corporations with questionable hiring practices for sponsoring the program.
Every year, we are programmed to death with the same stories during Black History Month. There will be the obligatory stories about Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks , Rev. Martin Luther King Jr and some inventor or entertainer who died broke after making millions of dollars for a white owned company. Surely, there has to be more to the black experience than that!
Contrary to popular belief, Black people did have a history before they were "discovered" by European explorers. Although, they have been ripped from the pages of history books, there existed mighty civilizations in Africa before "Europe" even existed. Scholars such as Dr. Anthony Browder, George GM James and Dr. Yusef ben Jochannan have done extensive research on the subject but because their scholarship did not conform to traditional western propaganda that promotes the idea that anything worth having came out of Europe, their works have been, largely, ignored.
As Dr. WEB Dubois wrote in his essay "The Souls of White Folk," " Europe has never produced and never will in our day bring forth a single human soul who cannot be matched and over matched in every line of human endeavor by Asia and Africa."
Even when such fan favorites such as Douglas and King are mentioned, their images are white washed, so we are left with a Frederick Douglas who never questioned the black celebration of Independence Day and a Martin Luther King who never questioned the war in Vietnam.
Also, although much of the attention is paid to the lead characters of black History, little attention is given to the supporting cast of thousands. There are hundreds of heroes and heroines that are never discussed because they dared to veer off script that promotes black intellectual, inferiority. How many people know about Imhotep, who, according to historian J A Rogers, was "the real father of medicine" or Marcus Garvey, who led the largest black movement in American history.
The blatant disregard for black history is becoming increasing problematic on two fronts.
First, it has allowed many black youth, who were denied the truth about their history, to develop a Hip Hop pseudo-history that replaces "revolutionaries" with rappers.
Secondly it has allowed nouveau, revisionist historians to create an American fantasy land where legalized slavery was never sanctioned by the US Constitution, Jim in Huckleberry Finn was never called the dreaded "n" word and right wing pundit Glen Beck is the legitimate heir to the Martin Luther King's throne.
So the challenge before us in 2011 is to find a way to change the channel and present a new, high definition picture of Black History. How do we show the real black experience without corporate, commercial interruption?
The answer is, literally, in the palm of our hands. We use social media to show the world the lost episodes of Black History. Everyday during February we should use our ipads, iphones and lap tops to post information about black history on Youtube, Facebook etc. And not just the PC fluff that we get every year. We need the (Malcolm) X- rated stuff too. Whether it be stories about ancient African civilizations, unsung African American leaders or those members of our own families who have made positive contributions to society, we must seize the time and become the executive producers of our own history.
As Malcolm X once said, "of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research."
In this case, the prize is not an Emmy nor an Oscar but a proud history to be passed down to future generations.
Paul Scott is a minister, activist and writer based in Durham NC He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org . His blog is No Warning Shots Fired.com