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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Why celebrate Black History Month in 2013?
Would it really be so bad if this was the last year we celebrated Black History Month?
 
Published Thursday, February 28, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

Black History Month has been celebrated every February in America since 1976. But as the month comes to a close, many folks around the nation are wishing the tradition would end.

https://asoft10289.accrisoft.com/charlottepost/clientuploads/v38n13photos/Shukree Harlem.jpg
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ITVS.ORG
Director Shukree Tilghman takes his petition to end Black History Month to the streets of Harlem in the film "More than just a Month.

The concept is nothing new. In 2005, during a well-documented interview with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes,” Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman called the annual observance “ridiculous.”

Freeman reasoned that black history was American history so it shouldn’t be relegated to one month out of the year or isolated from history as a whole.

Watching that interview was a turning point in the life of Shukree Hassan Tilghman, a 29-year-old filmmaker.

“That was the first time that I’d heard somebody talk about it like that in public,” he said. “I’d talked about it amongst my peers and with my family, but I’d never heard anybody talk about it that way in public. I agreed with him.”

Tilghman said as a child, he always enjoyed celebrating Black History Month.

“I love Black History Month,” he said. “But as I got older, I started questioning what it meant to have the same four or five characters talked about and having the entire scope of black history being squeezed into just one month.”

Tilghman was so inspired by Freeman’s interview the following year he set out on a cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. Tilghman captured his journey in the documentary “More than a Month.”

Since “More than a Month” debuted on PBS in 2012, Tilghman has been touring the nation screening the documentary. He was recently in Charlotte to hold a screening at The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

The purpose, he said, is to “initiate critical thought” on why we continue to celebrate Black History Month in 2013 and what it would mean if the month no longer existed.

“People, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable not having it,” he said. “We haven’t gotten to a place where we, as Americans (African Americans included), feel comfortable not having Black History Month.”

It’s better than nothing, maybe

While Black History Month has its share of detractors, there are certainly many supporters who wholeheartedly believe the annual observance should continue. They say that without it, the contributions of African Americans would soon be forgotten.

“I think that we should continue to celebrate Black History Month for historical purposes so that our black children can continually gain that knowledge and that education of where we come from,” said Ronny Missouri, 22. “I think the month is really cool to support our black heroes and the people who have paved the way for us.”

Missouri believes that without the annual tradition, many youth would lose touch with their heritage.

“The generation behind me would be lost, honestly,” he said. “I think the kids of the next generation would have a really hard time identifying where they came from.”

The fact that Black History month is observed in February, which happens to be the coldest and shortest month of the year is an issue of contention for some, but Warren Wright said it’s better than nothing.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Wright, 58. “But it’s a blessing for them to even give us a month to celebrate black history. (Racism) is still prevalent so we have to take what we can get at this point.”

Torrey Austin disagrees. The 23 year old said he wants Black History Month to come to an end.

“I feel that our history should be celebrated a lot more than it actually is,” he said. “I think it’s something that should be celebrated year round.”

Since Tilghman completed his documentary in 2011, he is no longer on a mission to end Black History Month. But he still questions its relevance.

“I think people have to decide whether they have a Black History Month because it’s cool to have or because they need it,” he said. “Do they need Black History Month in order for these stories to be properly exposed? Or do we have it because we like it?”

After more than a year of traveling the country and hosting numerous discussions on the topic, Tilghman has come to the conclusion that it’s not about being for or against the month itself, but about being aware of its implications.

“There is no American history without the stories of African Americans,” he said. “If our stories depend on a celebration in February to get exposed then we haven’t done enough to make sure that our history is exposed. We shouldn’t be dependent on February to make that happen.”

If you missed the Gantt Center’s screening of “More than a Month,” you can catch the full documentary online at PBS.org, where it will be streaming until March 3.

What are your thoughts on Black History Month? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter or submit a letter to the editor at editor@thecharlottepost.com.

Comments

As a believer in the Message of the Cross and Jesus Christ-Him crucified, I believe that all things promoting separatism should be void. It is time that we stop using ethnic carnage/frailties to promote reverse-segregation. We are all subject to manifestations of success, if we truly believe in our designated destinies that no men can torment. We (Americans) are too intelligent for this adverse warfare.
Posted on March 12, 2013
 

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