This is the first time I have featured a guest blogger. What an honor to share this space with Norma J. Thomas, a church girl from my childhood who is now a spirit sister in all things righteous. But, these words are not her own, but are that of her father, Mr. Joe-- the neighborhood barber and bedrock of witness to Black history for almost nine decades. Norma, thank you for sharing. Mr. Joe, thank you for speaking truth to power.
My father, who will be 88 years old in just 3 months, is preparing his Black History Month presentation. This year, with all he has been through, he says he doesn't feel like doing a lot, he'll just stand and speak this year. So, we discussed what he wanted to talk about. Here is draft 1 of his presentation:
I Celebrate Black History Month!
By Mr. Joe “the Barber” Thomas
During the month of February, we stop, we make a special effort to teach and to learn, to remember and to honor our history and heritage, Black History Month. We don't squeeze it in between other observances and holidays. It's not an afterthought; in February, it's at the forefront of our minds. Everything we do in February, we do for this purpose.
Sadly, as soon as February 1st rolls around, so do the criticisms. "Why did they GIVE us the shortest month in the year? Why don't we recognize Black history year 'round? Why do we honor this person and not that person? Why this? Why that?"
Truthfully, it is a sin and a shame that those who struggled for all of us are criticized this way. What is forgotten by the younger generation is the COURAGE that it took for us "Negroes" to do anything at all; the courage, the strength, the wisdom, the knowledge we had at a time when most of us had nothing, when the signs keeping us out and pushing us back were real, in black print, and hung up high for everybody to see, was all we had. We didn't have cell phones and email to contact everybody and tell them what to do. Most of us didn't even have telephones. We risked life trying to get information out to our people. Everybody didn't live in the city, but even then it was dangerous. The slaves didn't have maps and GPS navigation; they had the moon and stars to guide them.
Carter G. Woodson, Mary McLeod Bethune, and others whose names I don't know, did not ASK for Negro History Week, they took it. They decided it was necessary and they encouraged others to participate. That was 1926. Fifty years later it became Black History Month, thanks to some college kids. We should be celebrating that these people had the good sense and the courage to get the ball rolling. It is now up to this generation to take it where they think it should go.
At a time when young people think being Black means being ignorant, clowning in the classroom, fighting on videos, disrespecting themselves and their elders, abandoning their children, I ask, what will this generation do besides criticize. I know it's not everybody, but it's way too many who will criticize what was done in the past, with nothing. What will they do, now that they have everything?
If one month is not enough, change it! If we got some of our facts wrong, correct them! If some facts are missing, make them known! If some people were left out, add them in. If you don't think it's important, don't participate, but don't stop those of us who want to. Stop saying "they" did this; "they" did that. WE did it, and we did the best we knew how. Nobody complains about Hispanic or Asian Heritage Month. Ask yourself why? Question that!
So, today, I stand, even if I must stand alone, and honor the courage, intelligence, and determination of Carter G. Woodson, and I celebrate Black History Month.
October 04, 1930 - January 27, 2015