By Vernon A. Williams
In the aftermath of arguably the “worst news” February since the antebellum era in America – it is official. Black History Month is extended to the end of March 31.
This news will frighten both whites, who never thought there should be a month set aside for African Americans, and Negroes who are always relieved when it is over.
But teachers, preachers and activists, shouldn’t put away that black, red and green theme just yet. Undoubtedly, there are countless questions concerning this unprecedented move so hopefully this Q and A will help shed more light on the development. In transparency, know that I serve as both the interviewer and the interviewee. Just go with it.
Q: So what do you mean when you say Black History Month will be extended?
A: Just what I said. All of the activities, celebrations, disseminations of information and the like can be repeated or re-created for an additional month.
Q: On what authority do you make this declaration?
A: For those who love the Lord, suffice it to say that being a child of a King gives me authority to issue a royal decree so that is what I have chosen to do.
Q: Wait a minute. Many Americans aren’t Christian or even religious.
A: For non-believers, authority comes through what many of them consider their Bible – the Constitution. This is government of, by and for the people. So this decree is “by” me and “for” more than 42 million disenfranchised citizens “of” this great nation.
Q: And what if nobody decides to go along with this plan of yours – or the number of people cooperating is pathetically few?
A: It doesn’t matter. This is not a popularity contest. When Dr. King came out against the war in Vietnam, he endured considerable criticism – especially from scared colored folks who admonished him to stay in his lane and warned that speaking too boldly might jeopardize the kindness of liberal and more moderate white America. Dr. King responded that his principles cannot be predicated on acceptance but rather on morality.
Q: What will you say to those who suggest this is totally unnecessary because you are free to celebrate Black History 365 days a year?
A: These are not mutually exclusive concepts. Go ahead and maintain your year-round dedication to Black History; like Tom Joyner does on his radio show. But there is still something worthy about setting aside a special period to draw special attention to it.
Q: I’m not sure I get the need.
A: Okay. You love your children all year round but we make an elaborate expression of it on their birthdays. A married couple needs no reminder of their deep-rooted devotion, and yet each anniversary marks a moment of heartfelt reflection and renewed commitment. Graduating classes of high school and college celebrate reunions as symbols of both from whence they came, where they are, and what their futures have in store. That is the same thinking undergirding Black History Month.
Q: Skeptics will ask what evidence do you have of mistreatment and abuse of Black Americans this past February.
A: I thought you’d never ask. You’ve made what should have been the first question your last but it’s all good. The truth is, it is almost the same every month of every year for African Americans. But this one seemed to sting a little more than usual.
Q: Again, specifics? Any?
A: Plenty. How about just this week a southern newspaper editor doubles down on a proposal for the Ku Klux Klan to come into the nation’s capital to clean up D.C.; an ex-military marksman terrorist who threatens political and media opposition to the current administration; the abuse of the children has been just stupid. In South Carolina, children were taken to a field to pick cotton to learn what it felt like. In another class exercise, Black children were told to pretend to be slaves to escape over an obstacle course they claim would teach the experience of the Underground Railroad. In another classroom in America – white children dressed in blackface. Speaking of which, too many politicians to mention came out of the closet on the issue of painting their faces to ridicule African Americans and not just for Halloween. Some boldly put it into their yearbooks.
Q: Okay, I get the picture. Some questionable things were done in February.
A: Oh, that’s not the half. During our Black History Month came the news that hate groups in the U.S. have gone as high as they have for 20 years. In Florida, they arrested a sixth grader for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Arrested! Then the clothing industry lost its mind. Prada produced bag charms in the likeness of black monkeys with huge red lips. Gucci designs a similar black sweater that pulls up over the face about where exaggerated ruby red lips would go. A white student at the University of Michigan tied a rope into a noose and left a Black roommate doll hanging in the shower. Michigan – not Mississippi. While children in Flint continue to die from purposely contaminated water, 45 calls a state of emergency for a wall at the Mexican border. Baton Rouge police in blackface pose throwing up gang signs while Georgia Congressman Drew Ferguson posts an exhibit outside of his D.C. office that praises Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee with one of his quotes calling Blacks inferior. A Florida woman busted for drunk driving threatens to sic the KKK on an arresting Black officer. Deadly cop killings continue. We found out the economic gap between Blacks and whites was widening instead of closing. Get the picture? Enough is enough and too much stinks. We’ve had it up to here.
Q: Yeah, I get the picture. But I don’t get how another month to celebrate Black History change anything. They didn’t love you then, they won’t love you now.
A: But it sends the powerful message that nothing they can do will deter the strength of our sense of self, our pride in heritage, our unity in purpose, our courage to fight or our capacity to rise against all odds – with the help of God. This “extension” says to the enemy that they cannot define our narrative or confine the realms of our celebration. Period.