Why America Needs Black History Month & I Can’t Give Trump a Chance

For those that say “give Trump a chance,” I do not have the privilege or luxury to ignore him making fun of the disabled, denigrating women, or his racist policies against blacks. He refused to rent to them. He took out full page ads against the Central Park Five, even when DNA evidenced proved their innocence he continues to badger them. His campaign plea to black voters was not that he would make our communities great, simply “what have you got to lose?” Shortly after the election, he showed us what we had to lose by attacking a civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Not only did Trump attack Rep. Lewis, but he did so on the only day this country honors civil rights leaders during the MLK holiday. We have much to lose! My person, the safety of my nieces and nephews are at risk because of Trump’s beliefs and people he has as part of his cabinet.

If you are white and like Trump, answer me this: If Louis Farrakhan ran for president, would you “give him a chance” and look past his comments about white people? What have you got to lose? It is easy to give someone a chance when what they do will not harm you. If you will never have to have this conversation like the one in the Now This video below with your child or nieces and nephews, then you enjoy a privilege that is not mine.

 

When all you can comment about Black History Month is slavery and Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, then you do not care about Black or American history. Black history is more than slavery. African Americans come from a tradition of oral history. Even after coming to America, we continued that oral history with call-and-response in spirituals and gospels. We used Biblical stories to assist runaways and send messages of hope to our brothers and sisters in bonds.

Our survival as a people depended on keeping our history alive. The church served as the meeting place to disseminate community, historical, and current events. Why was the church seminal to civil rights? During slavery, it was considered slave-owners duty as “good” Christians to allow slaves to worship. Slaves did not attend church with masters. Attending church was the only time slaves were allowed to congregate. The church has always been central to our tradition of passing down oral history. Spirituals such as Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Follow the Drinking Gourd were used as code for a runaway slave to find safe shelter. Spirituals like Wade in the Water and Go Down Moses along with sermons about Moses and the Israelites exodus from Egypt could indicate an upcoming rebellion or help for a runaway. We have always used song, dance, and symbolism as a means of resistance. That is why we get upset with cultural appropriation of our hair styles, dances, and mannerisms – they were born out of oppression and a means for survival, not to be trendy. Love us as much as you love our sayings and mannerisms. YAASS and talk to the hand!

Amandla Stenberg on Cultural Appropriation

Amandla Stenberg on Cultural Appropriation

Like Morse code, we turn biblical passages and songs into code language. The master thought we were “shucking and jiving” for his entertainment, oh but every movement had meaning. That is where #Blackgirlmagic and #blackpower comes from. Without saying a word, we know what a look conveys. The way we move, dance, sing, and stand in the face of adversity is born from this ability to turn instruments of oppression and prejudice into survival skills and new art forms. It birthed the blues, lindy-hop, gave voice to jazz, unleashed rock-n-roll, created break dancing, and found a new home in hip-hop.

When we were told we were not equal or smart enough or pretty enough, that same energy said continue to silence naysayers. When we are called #lessclassicallybeautiful, we need to hear James Brown’s Say it Loud Black & Proud and Nina Simone’s Young, Gifted & Black.

For whatever reason people fear our blackness. A black man cannot compliment his black mother and sister without a white woman talking about “but all women.” If you believe in “leaning in” and empowering women, congratulate your sisters of color and keep it moving. Even when we are oppressed, still we rise. That is a powerful legacy.

“We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.” – James Weldon Johnson’s Lift Every Voice & Sing

If you are an American did not learn about Elijah McCoy, Vivien Thomas, Charles Drew, and Matthew Henson (to name a few), that is why Black History Month is necessary.  Last week, I encouraged readers to see the James Baldwin documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, for Black History Month. The reason why America needs Black History Month is because after all these years, the more things changed the more they stayed the same.

#ICantBreathe #Resist #NotMyPresident

Ronda Lee
Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York. She loves to travel and is passionate about education equity, especially for first generation college students.