Will you observe or will you celebrate?

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February is here! This marks the month in which we are to reflect upon our heritage and history. I know that the Kinte' cloth will once again be "fashionable." How do you plan to observe this month of African American History? I hope we not only observe, but celebrate our heritage every day! Don't stop at March, keep celebrating by being proud and knowledgeable upon your heritage! What are your plans? One goal for us is to learn the entire 3 verses of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

-- Anonymous, February 02, 2002


Brother Ray, Many if not most white folks will let February pass without doing anything. Reasons should be obvious: They feel it has nothing to do with them, they are afraid they'd feel awkward if they were the only white people there, or they may be afraid things will be said in the program to make them feel guilty for the sins of their forefathers.

The African Americans where I work though came up with a rather innovative idea though. They held an African-American Taste-fest. The idea was to have as many dishes as possible, and to put just a dab on each plate. There were so many dishes, that by the time you'd reached the end of the line, you had a full plate. Also note that it wasn't African food, but African-American.

The second part concerned the price. It was free. Even so, there are those who will pass up a free lunch, so in addition to fliers and announcements, the participants extended personal invitations to those of other races with whom they'd formed friendships on the job.

The result was a crowd that was about 1/3 non-black, and a very friendly atmosphere. No speaker, no propaganda, just a bunch of friends getting together with friends, saying "here's a little introduction to part of my world." We can do more to build bridges by forming friendships than by preaching at each other any day of the week.

-- Anonymous, February 02, 2002

Thank you for the idea! However, I was intrigued with the "propaganda" word being used in the context of one's history. Ray Allen

-- Anonymous, February 02, 2002

What I mean Brother, is anything a non-black would find threatening, uncomfortable, or divisive. Examples would be a political pitch, a guilt trip, an ideological agenda, or anything that would turn a friendly gathering into something heavy. If they suspect that will be on the program, they'll stay away even if it is free, and if they are invited by a friend.

The focus in this gathering was introducing people to a different kind of food, and getting together with friends. Anyone can go for that anytime, and bridges between people will be built. But if the program involves any of the things I mentioned, with the exception of a few liberals, the white people won't be there. So what is the purpose of the event?

If African-American history month is to be an exclusively African- American event, that's fine. Ethnic communities have celebrations all the time, and the white community lets them pass without a 2nd thought. They don't get angry about it, they just figure it doesn't apply to them and go about their business. But if you want to include others in the celebration, my suggestion is to have a social event with a focus on the positive. I've seen white folks turn out in numbers to celebrate Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's day, etc. Why? Because the party was rockin'!

-- Anonymous, February 03, 2002

I think RP's comments are refreshing. The high-turnout of non-black patrons at the food carnival demonstrates the apeal. This might seem a bit odd, but I personally would like to see the name Black History Month dropped and replaced with "Inspiration & Innovation". I would link it to the President's Weekly Saturday Radio Address (I'm sure EVERYONE listens to this, right?). Every Saturday some inspiring message would come from the work of Alain Locke, Ralph Bunche, Henry McNeal Turner, Fannie Lou Hamer, etc. I am somewhat skeptical of the value of engaging in discussions and workshops which reduce to "ethnic chauvimism". The nobelity of cultural pride should not be compromised with incendiary language aimed at deligitimizing alternative culture, ergo, Western civilization. The struggle for self-determination by black Americans is the quentissential American success story: achievement amidst insurmountable obstacles. The tribute during the month of February has become far too perfunctory and unintentionally transmits the wrong signal that black history is so stagnant and compartmentalized that it can be stored in a 28 day capsule. Our collective debt to unsung black American heroes and heroines is far too great to continue engaging in this present form of trivial pursuit. QED

-- Anonymous, February 04, 2002

I would have to agree with Bill about the study of our history being compartmentalized into one month. It is my heartfelt feeling that we should be incorporating the richness of our heritage in homes, schools, and churches 365(6) days of the year. The Biblical and secular perspective ought to be intermingled so that we can understand where we came from and where we're headed. If the history books were written with our story in them, people of all races would know about the contributions our ancestors and present day heroes and heroines have made to make this world a better place.

It is unfortunate that people have such a limited knowledge of our rich heritage and what is worse, our children would rather not hear about that "back in the day" or "old school" stuff.

I will be observing what my church, family and community will be doing to enhance and enrich its citizens. As for me, I will be sharing with one of our sister denominations (CME's) in observance of their children's and youth day Black History celebration. No, I will not have on my African outfit or my Kinte' cloth. What's the point?

-- Anonymous, February 04, 2002

I am encouraged by the various responses to my initial question. I remember a time when we observed "Black History Week." This was during the latter 60's while I attended elementary school. Our church and parsonage was located in the projects. Being raised in a household filled with books and both parents being teachers, I was instructed upon history everyday! I can still hear my father playing Nina Simone and her song "To be young, gifted and Black." I have learned to celebrate my heritage everyday in all aspects of life. Celebrate everyday the achievements! Be inspired by the ability to achieve on an uneven "playing field." I think it is a good starting point for our youth to learn, observe and celebrate our heritage everyday! From black eyed peas and cornbread; From fried fish and "sweet iced tea" to mustards and collards; From Bach to Basie; From Malcolm to Martin, Sojourner, Fannie, Rosa...; From the three brothers listed as CEO's in last week's edition of Newsweek...Celebrate! My grandfather was a butler...but he owned his own house...and left 5 acres of land for his offspring! My grandmother used to clean homes, but she left that behind to attend a small school named Shaw University...earning her BA and Master's degree (Right On Grandma)! My taught at Duke but wore a 'fro...go head brother! My mother taught African American History in high school, and worked on her Master's in Ghana and Nigeria...Go 'head ma! As a child in the south, I was called all kinds of names, but never listened...I was too proud and too strong! I was prepared to look beyond color and see ability. I had too many examples and too much inspiration to fail! February is a good start...but don't stop at March, go on and see what happens when we keep the celebration going (year round)!

-- Anonymous, February 04, 2002

Pastor Ray,

What a rich heritage you have, thanks for sharing. Our people just don't get together like we once did to share stories of how good God has been to us individually and as a family. When talking with co- workers about our heritage, they are always so shocked when they hear of the many contributions that our ancestors and forerunners of freedom gave to this country.

My family gathers once a month at what we call an "everybody birthday celebration" (no, we do not have a person in the family born in every month of the year). In those months, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, hoping and praying that He has been born in one of our lives. Along with the Jesus celebration, we are to find out what African American was born or made some significant contribution in that month and tell something about that person and/or their contribution.

At our birthday parties, we use poems, skits, hymns, spirituals, songs, art, and dance to get everyone involved. The adults are involved in the drama(we're the hams). We also play games and there is much food, but the point is, we are trying to instill in our children a love and appreciation for the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Coultree Cullen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, etc.

Recently, we challenged the children to do something with a hymn or a Negro Spiritual, or a song from the 60's. They took "Go down Moses" and did a magnificent rendition of it using drama and dance. I might have to take that show on the road. (smile)

For this month's celebration, the children, ages 15 to 6, are writing their own skit, with the help of their mother. I can't wait to see what they've come up with. Like your goal, the adult's challenge is to learn all three verses of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing".

Our January celebration, was held on ML King, Jr.'s birthday and it's been carried over into this month. Instead of focusing on the MLK that is now being embodied as a 'dreamer', we did excerpts from his book "Why We Can't Wait."

My prayer is that our people will begin to see and understand that God gave our people the ability to make significant contributions to our country and our world. Can we do no less? Consider your ways...

-- Anonymous, February 05, 2002

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