February 2, 2021
BLACK PUBLIC MEDIA
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
Black Every Month
Hi BPM Family,
It’s that time of year again: Black History Month. To placate Black consumers, corporations spend copious amounts of money on ads featuring images of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Dr. King, Frederick Douglass, and others. Mainstream cultural institutions present a line up of Black-themed events. Networks showcase Black programs. And employers' Diversity & Inclusion officers line up a series of workshops and discussions about racial justice and inequity.
But its 2021. With all the unrest that took place in 2020, shouldn't we expect something different?
What historian Carter G. Woodson began in 1926 as a humble week in February, grew into a month-long celebration in 1976. By the 1980s, Black History Month had evolved into a catch-all opportunity for Americans to address racism and inequality:
* Want to talk about racism? Let’s do it in February.
*Need to showcase the successes of Black employees? Do it in February.
*Want to highlight a new Black playwright? Let’s produce their sci-fi play in February.
Carter G. Woodson
UGH! Over the years, too many forgot that the word “History” lays between the words “Black” and “Month."
Since 2010, BPM has purposely launched our series about contemporary African diaspora stories, AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, two weeks before Black History Month. But that hasn't deterred some public media stations from using the series to fill their February programming holes.You might ask: "What’s wrong with using Black history month to highlight Black accomplishments, address racial injustice, and confront the inequities in the system? If we have American’s attention for 28 days, why not?" Because 28 days a year has never been and will never be enough to highlight the depth of Black American’s contributions to this country, or address the deep structural and cultural scars the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow have left behind.
Consider this: many of the participants in the Jan. 6th insurrection, who erected a makeshift lynching station, shouted racist epithets at Black police officers and ranted about taking "their" country back have never known a February that WASN'T Black History Month. Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who murdered George Floyd, was born the same year Black History Month became a national holiday. Clearly, decades of one-month-per-year observances haven't been enough.
Am I saying we should end Black History Month? No. Lifting up Black history is great. What must end is the practice of making February the only time this nation expends energy and money to address race and social injustice. What must end is the persistent and willful exclusion of the Black experience from everyday American history.
BPM will celebrate this February much like we celebrate every month of the year, by sharing stories about the Black experience. But since it is Black History Month, and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, we’ve added a little something extra: the Black History Month Watch Party Gift Box Giveaway to benefit BPM’s emergency relief fund. So, this year you can cuddle up to watch Mr. Soul!, How it Feels to Be Free, Greenwood Avenue, Going Back to T-Town, or one of the other programs listed on our website, and enjoy the yummy treats donated by these Black-owned companies: Brooklyn Tea, Lux Living Candle Company, Pop's Kernel, Sol Cacao, and Yvonne’s Cookies. Those who buy a ticket to compete for the Black Stories Matter gift basket will also become eligible for an exclusive a one-on-one Q&A with Melissa Haizlip, producer/director of Mr. Soul! Remember, at Black Public Media, Black history isn’t just observed in February, it’s every month.
Woodson Photo courtesy of Berea College