BY: STACY M. SWIMP
This focus does not do justice to the Founder of Negro History Week (later to become Black History Month), Dr. Carter G. Woodson. In fact, I would suggest that merely heralding Black heroes is a perversion of the reason Black History Week was created in the early 20th Century.
The point of studying Black History, from the perspective of the great Dr. Woodson, was so that we could juxtapose (place or deal with close together for contrasting effect) historical studies with current social practice.
He wanted us to understand where we came from, who were were, and what we had done, so that we might also understand where we really are, who we really are, what we are actually doing, as well as where we still need to go, who we still need to become, and what we still need to do.
His basis for creating “Negro History Week” was to provide a “Call to Action“.
That means using historical studies for the purpose of learning the valuable lessons of history, that we can be certain not to make the mistakes of history. Studying history should motivate us to take some level of personal responsibility in making our home, neighborhood, and at large society a better place to live, work and play.
Dr. Martin L. King, Jr,’s speech at an Annual Conference of the National Urban League provides a strong indictment of our failure to honor heroes with personal integrity and dignity, rather than with phony ad hoc observances:
“The Negro must make a vigorous effort to improve his personal standards…………One of the sure signs of maturity is the ability to rise to the point of self criticism. We have been affected by our years of economic deprivation and social isolation.
Some Negroes have become cynical and disillusioned. Some have so conditioned themselves to the system of segregation that they have lost that something called Initiative. So many have used their oppression as an excuse for mediocrity.
Many of us live beyond our means, spend money on non essentials and frivolities, and fail to give to serious causes, organizations and educational institutions that so desperately need funds. Our crime rate is far too high.”- Dr. Martin. L. King, from his speech: “The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness”
It is indeed an insult to the legacy of our so called heroes that so many of us claim to honor them, when we too often live our lives in direct contrast to the values and principles that they challenged us to maintain.
Black History Month celebrations, in most instances, have shamefully become something other than an honorable commemoration.
It has, instead, become a mockery of those that came before us who would surely be disgusted by how their contributions are being increasingly wasted.
I think our forefathers would say to many of us who claim to celebrate our “heroes”:
Keep your fake celebrations and try practicing some integrity and self respect”.