After Black History Month, After the Death of George Floyd and After a Year of Lockdown
What did we celebrate? Was this Black History Month any different from the others? What do we do in the aftermath?
“This month we celebrate us… our complex dichotomy of a beautiful traumatic lament, in the key of hope and holiness. Ours is a magnum opus of heaven and horror, sung with blood-stained chords from the heat of forced labor and overlooked contributions. We love you… we distrust you… yet we find good in you, as we found good in ourselves…after generations of being taught to hate that same melanin that has brought beauty from ashes. Oh how beautiful we are. We always were, now the light finally reveals what was always there. Oh, how beautiful we are.” — Kirk Franklin
In the great oration of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1852, he asked, “What, to the slave is the fourth of July?” And for this whole month, I have asked myself something similar.
“What to the Black person is Black History Month?” after the year of racial reckoning precipitated from the death of George Floyd on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in the middle of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected Black people?
What are we celebrating? What does Black History Month mean when juxtaposed against *gestures vaguely* all of this?
There’s an intensity that I sense with the Black History Month, as corporations and organizations scramble — I mean — carefully try to make good on their lofty anti-Black racism stances and statements from last summer. This is a Black History Month unlike any other, where business is anything but usual.
Frederick Douglass was careful to distance himself from the celebration of the day by using a powerful pronoun: “your.”
This, for the purpose of this…