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Setting the Context: Part 2

February 2, 2013

Black history month is often presented as a time of reflection and celebration.  I would also add that it is a time for critical thinking.   Where is the progression of the dialogue?  After the Civil Rights Movement a corporate trauma befell the community.  In the wake of the assassinations of our leaders Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X we experienced a paralysis.  The daze of the ’70s was followed by the ruse of ’80s Reaganomics and the drug war, both which tragically crippled the black community.  The cocaine crack trade finished the job in the ’90s, giving birth to the prison system of today.  While a talented tenth still was able to head to a better life through education and enterprise, a telling number of African-Americans fell victim to circumstance.  Mired in labels of criminality, gang life, and poverty, many blacks are born into fates they cannot escape.

Within the black culture, black excellence eventually was replaced by black “cool”.  The masses take their cues from celebrities versus scientists and businessmen.  The general consensus is that if someone is making money, “who am I to knock their hustle?”  Integrity and enterprise are no longer requirements of respect.  Instead of a united black community, the race is splintered by class, geography; even ethnicity.  Historians such as Cornel West and broadcasters Tavis Smiley, even celebrities like Bill Cosby, try to cast the light of concern on the matter and are deemed rabble-rousers and malcontents.  This leaves many youth wondering – what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that history is not stagnant.  Unfortunately, even in the black community, black history is now becoming a fabled era of human civilization.  It does not feel current, although not even 60 years ago did we enjoy half of the equal rights we do now.  Our understanding of black history is frozen in time.  As blacks reach a critical minority mass in various industries –just enough to color up the brochures – people get more comfortable with how far the race has come.  But that is because most people have NO idea where it has been.

This problem is not without solution.  The black experience in America and the world wide Diaspora is still being chronicled by historians, sociologists, and writers.  Here are a few titles to round out your knowledge of black history and the nuanced progression of the race in the world.  Remember, with pride, that the stand made by African-Americans in the United States forever changed the manner in which the entire world engages persons of color.  Context is key.

  • Appaih, Kwame Anthony, Gates, Henry L., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience
  • Bennett, Lerone, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962
  • Franklin, John Hope, and Alfred Moss, From Slavery to Freedom. A History of African Americans
  • Hine, Darlene Clark, et al. The African-American Odyssey
  • Pinn, Anthony B. The African American Religious Experience in America
  • Soyinka, Wole, Of Africa
  • Van Sertima, Ivan They Came Before Columbus

Add these titles to your W.E.B. DuBois and Carter G. Woodson collection.

Daina Troy

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