All Articles Tagged "black history month"
Every Saturday morning for decades parents have awakened to cheerful trills of laughter. Each week aficionados troll funny pages and comic book stores for the latest edition of favorite serials. But until 40 years ago, audiences looking for a truly representative Black cast were disappointed. Animators and cartoonists of African-American descent began the slow rise to fame at the beginning of the 21st century. By the new millennium 2D Black role models were no longer a rarity, such as these colorful artists and cartoons.
If you’re interested in learning more about Black cartoon characters, Funky Turns 40 is on view through June 14 in the Latimer/Edison Gallery of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. For information on future exhibition dates see the Museum of Uncut Funk website.
When you say the name, Richard Roundtree, first thing people think of is Shaft. John Shaft. But there’s more to Richard Roundtree than an uber-popular blaxploitation film. He’s a cancer survivor, a former model and a one-time football star, and did I mention that he’s a pop culture icon? For our last vintage evening eye candy post for Black History Month, we’re showing love to the action star, stage actor and breast cancer awareness activist, who has managed to stay relevant and popular after more than 40 years on the big and small screen.
In our last Black Beauties To Know And Love, we wanted to show a little love to actress and singer Marpessa Dawn. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s not a surprise, because Dawn’s career wasn’t the lengthiest. However, her beauty was well-known. With the Oscars airing on Sunday, we thought we’d showcase the talents of Philly-born Dawn, whose acting work helped her film, Black Orpheus, win Best Foreign Film at the 1959 Academy Awards. That same film was a major influence for artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and according to President Barack Obama, one of his late mother’s favorite movies . Get to know more about her life and legacy.
Each February we take time out to look at the progress of Blacks in the United States — where we have been and where we are going. As this year’s Black History Month draws to a close, it’s an interesting exercise to take a look at the past month or two of 2014 to see what pages we’ve added to our history, for better or for worse. Here are some memorable moments to reflect on from Black History Month 2014.
In honor of Black History Month, what could be better than looking at the present generation of movers and shakers and finding out not only what makes them tick? The following entrepreneurs, artists, business owners, and forward thinkers speak with us about what moves and inspires them.
We asked each person these three questions:
Which elder (whether in history or more recently) has influenced you most and why?
What has your profession taught you about being Black in America?
What message would you give to those coming behind you?
African-American women have always been industrious — and still are. According to the National Women’s Business Council, there are 911,728 African American women-owned businesses in the United States. This is an incredible increase of 66.7 percent since 2002 and a 191.4 percent jump since 1997.
African American women-owned business made $36.8 billion in 2007 (the latest stats available). And more than one in 10 (or 11.7 percent) of all women-owned businesses across the country are owned by African-American women. New York has the most black woman-owned firms with 98,877, followed by Georgia (88,920), and Florida (86,001).
Though African-American women are thriving as entrepreneurs, it isn’t easy starting a new business. Sometimes it is great to use those who have gone before us as examples. For Black History Month, we take a look at some inspiring quotes for African-American women entrepreneurs past and present.
The month has been designated as the time of year where the rich history of African Americans is acknowledged and celebrated. This is the time where people across the nation pay homage to the fallen leaders of the Civil Rights movement, recognize the many colored inventors of the world and recall and recite famous speeches written and quotes spoken by the prominent black figures of the past. This is also the time when schools plan assemblies and take a few moments during class to teach our children about certain famous figures in black history so our kids will learn of the past, respect it, and take heed for the future. While it is a wonderful and admirable thing for our children to acknowledge leaders of black history, I cant help but wonder how many of them know at least five or more figures in black history…excluding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other prominent individuals who are always name checked?
I ask this question because there are so many African-American men and women who have contributed to the struggle and advancement of black people that are often overlooked and should be recognized for the part they have played in creating our rich backstory. Now don’t get me wrong, Dr. King was indeed one of the most powerful contributors in the battle for equality, but sometimes I wonder, if the nation didn’t “recognize” him on the third Monday of every January, would his legacy end up like that of many others who were there fighting alongside him, or those who fought before him?
The story of blacks spans over hundreds of years, and through those years, there are so many people who fought and paved the way for our children to sit in the very schools where they learn, fought for them to be educated alongside a diverse set of peers, fought for them to vote, and to not just sit on the bus, but get to sit on at the front of it! Not only that, but thanks to the thinkers and creators in our history, we as adults, along with our children, have the privilege of enjoying the numerous inventions of our predecessors. And don’t get me started on all the black people who were the first to do major things–something that is often an intimidating and harrowing experience. But it is unfortunate that our children are often deprived of knowing and learning about the other gems of black history because they are often overshadowed by the “larger” contributors teachers, and sometimes we as parents, choose to focus on.
While black history month is coming to an end this week, I want to extend a challenge to parents, schools and teachers for not just Black History Month next year, but throughout this year as well. Parents, do some in-depth research of your own, sit down with your children and teach them about unknown figures in black history. Let’s challenge teachers and schools to prepare lessons centered around a little-known person from our past who helped open doors for blacks that were once locked. Not only that, but parents and teachers can plan trips to local libraries that have speakers and various activities specifically for Black History month. There are a number of different activities to engage in during this time of year to teach our youth about the richness of the times and people before us. So if you’ve never thought about it before, start planning to teach your students or child about the unsung heroes and heroines that made the world what it is today. And if you like, you can start today and continue throughout the year. The history of our people is so extensive that it should be taught every day and not minimized and briefly recognized during the shortest month of the year, and only at the beginning of it.Liz Lampkin is the Author of Are You a Reflection of the Man You Pray For? Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Lampkin
It’s February and that means if it hasn’t already happened, your son or daughter will have you driving around at 9:30 at night trying to find a Super Walmart so you can stock up on posterboard, glue and copies of Essence, Ebony and Jet magazine. That’s because It’s Black History Month and your child has probably chosen Malcolm X, Jesse Owens or Rosa Parks to educate their classmates about how the way was paved for little black children today.
Actress, comedian and writer, Kerry Coddett doesn’t quite agree. “This may come as a shocker to some, but Black History Month is actually for white people,” she reveals in her Huffpost blog, A Gift For White People Celebrating Black History Month. The blog discusses the fact that the annual month of observance meant to commemorate important people and events in African-American culture is more about educating white people and making them feel a little less guilty about their reputation as our historical suppressors. Coddett suggests the month merely allows them the opportunity to empathize with many of the plights and struggles many African-Americans still presently face. And they get to empathize for a whole whopping 28 days.
Coddett pokes fun by giving a “gift” to white people in the form of a comedy short called “Blackertone”. The video is a fake commercial for a lotion called Blackertone which once used by white people causes them to turn into black people and as a result experience the same stereotypes and discrimination. The last few seconds even feature a voiceover that asks, “Are you tired of sitting on the sidelines while the tan girls have all the fun?” before cutting over to a group of African-Americans gyrating, shucking and jiving.
It reminds us of a few years ago when acting legend Morgan Freeman expressed his thoughts that the observance was dated and unnecessary. He commented in a 60 Minutes interview that Black History Month was more marginalizing than anything:
“You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”
Do you think Coddett makes a good point in who Black History Month is actually serving anymore or is it hard for you to take her seriously? View the “Blackertone” commercial below:
Black supermodels have long been fighting for their place at the fashion table and even though there are way more visible faces today (Sessilee Lopez, Chanel Iman, Melodie Monrose to name a few) than there were back in the 1970′s, fashion has still turned a blind eye to models of color and their impact on the fashion world.
We’re here to pay tribute. Although there are countless others, this group of 10 models have shaped the way fashion has viewed Black women and have opened the doors for the younger group of girls that are becoming more prevalent today.
Check out 10 iconic Black supermodels who have paved the way at StyleBlazer.com
So what exactly makes something a Black History Month fact?
When historian Carter G. Woodson and the Rev. Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915, and would later start Negro History Week in 1926, the idea was to not only commemorate the overlooked and unspoken accomplishments and contributions of black folks to society, but also fill in the blanks to an often one-sided and Eurocentric version of history. However, yesterday, as I drove along in my car listening to the the local urban radio station give one of its “Moments in Black History,” I realized just how far away we have gotten from either concept.
What I mean is that over some generic melancholic song (think of the end of The Jeffersons, which features Ja’net Dubois humming the original theme song), an announcer starts giving his spiel about why some NBA basketball player is deserving of his moment in black history. Who was he? Hell if I know. I’m not really into basketball, so if it isn’t the top players or even one of the players I hear guys talking about in passing – or even one of the guys who is married or in a relationship with a Basketball Wife or K. Michelle – I won’t have a clue who you are talking about. No biggie. Some of our community’s greatest icons and contributors were unrecognized or even sucked in other professions. What is important here are his achievements for the betterment of the community or society.
I mean, did he invent some medical device in the off-season, which saved lots of lives? Or in between free throws, did he manage to mentor to 200 black kids from the ‘hood and help them get into college? Does he even champion the cause of the downtrodden million dollar slaves?
His claim to fame is that he is a Temple University graduate, which sort of (kind of) makes him local to Philadelphia, and that he is black. Oh, and now he plays in the NBA – with a bunch of other black people. No disrespect to the dude, whose name I can’t remember right now, but his average of five points per game is not really a “moment” in black history.
Nor are the posters on subways and on buses of all the black people who own a McDonald’s restaurant, not just during February, but all 365 days of the year. While that is interesting corporate information, it is not a black history fact. Nor is fried chicken and watermelon, which some schools and corporate entities have been putting on their menus in honor of BHM. Fried chicken is my favorite, but come on now, chicken is not even a human being, therefore, it’s not a black history fact. Neither is the half-off on perms at the Family Dollar. Great deal–not a fact. Nor are the Tupac-trivia questions on Instagram. While it is interesting to know that he was being considered for John Singleton’s Baby Boy, and Pac is an icon, Jody is not a great moment in black history. Nor is the single black coworker at your corporate job a black history fact. So on behalf of all six of them in the entire company, can you please stop walking by their cubicle, fact-finding about episode six of Eyes on The Prize that you happened to catch on PBS last night.
Truth is, even as black folks have been a fixture in this country since our ancestors built it for free, our history, especially presented on our accord and defined by us, is still relatively new and a mystery to most – even our own people. Therefore, I could understand the lack of girth and depth beyond a handful of figures. As Chris Rock once put it, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the answer to all your black history observational needs. And I can almost understand those folks who are desperately trying to project some cultural diversity outside of Black History Month’s MVP (or most valuable prominent) like King, or the man behind the cotton gin or George Washington Carver and his many wonderful uses of peanuts – even if it is a second string, non-Basketball Wife-dating, bench warmer in the league.
But it is still kind of depressing to see us go through another Black History Month with so little aim and focus. Instead of using the month to share information, facts and host discussions, which could help us to organize and move the community forward both politically and socially, we’ve turned the commemoration into one of those framed-collages you get from off the stands, flea market and/or swap meets. That’s right, Black History Month is now the living, breathing version of The Black History Last Supper picture, which features President Barack Obama seated prominently in the center of a Leonardo da Vinci-esque mural with other unrelated notables like MLK, Malcolm X, Denzel Washington, Tupac, Michael Jordan, Shirley from What’s Happening!!, Colin Powell, Marcus Garvey, T-Pain, Angela Davis, Merlin Santana, and Beyoncé as the disciples.
And it is depressing because this is not what Woodson and Rev. Moorland had in mind. In fact, when Negro History Week was created, both historians and cultural leaders made sure to add themes to our observations, in order to recognize “pivotal events or topics that should be highlighted during the year’s celebration.” In case you are wondering, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which was also founded by Woodson and still oversees the official commemoration of Black History Month, has listed Civil Rights in America as the BHM theme for 2014. According to the organization’s executive summary for Black History Month 2014, the theme was chosen to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, more specifically:
“Through the years, people of African descent have formed organizations and movements to promote equal rights. The Colored Convention Movement, the AfroAmerican League, the Niagara Movement, the National Council of Negro Women, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference carried the banner of equality when allies were few. In the modern era, integrated organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, and the Congress of Racial Equality fought for and protected equal rights. The names of America’s greatest advocates of social justice—Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fanny Lou Hamer — are associated with the struggle for civil rights.
Within this struggle for civil rights, many of the important leaders have been men and women whose rights as women and as members of the gay and lesbian community were subordinated to the general cause. Pauli Murray, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, and many others litigated, organized, and wrote on behalf of civil rights, believing fully in the path towards equal rights for all. Their struggles accentuate the universality of the movement for equality in America, and form a central part of the 2014 National African American History theme.”
While not as s*xy or exciting as watching your average NBA player dunk and take a shot from beyond the three-point line, those struggles for equality still mean something. And they are worthy of serious discussion. And yet, for all the talk about Black History Month, our corporations, educational institutions and even black cultural networks only seem to be caught up in the frivolity of our commemoration. And all of this could explain why year after year, we read numerous essays about how ineffective and uninspiring Black History Month has become. Perhaps if we actually followed the original intent and focused on sharing knowledge related to its actual themes, maybe it would be more beneficial to those who need it most.