By Ernest Owens
Perhaps this past February should be the final Black History Month.
Society’s collective reshaping of the legacies and heritage of African-Americans through time is, at best, reductive.
The Civil Rights Movement and all of its straight, male dignitaries tend to get the majority of the celebration and honor. Of course, there might be a mention of Rosa Parks or Harriet Tubman – but it’s a boys club of respectable black men that share most of the spotlight.
Even as we begin to challenge our understanding of black innovators and pioneers, our own personal stigmas hinder us from maturing. We can’t imagine the thought of Langston Hughes possibly being gay or that sexism played demystified the Black Panther Movement. What has become of Black History Month, is a simple retelling of our story with everyone looking brave, heroic, and respectable.
If we are to not repeat history and expect a better one down the road, Black History Month should become Black Empowerment Month. The concept behind such a reshaping would help not just embrace the past victories but ensure new ones along the way while also reinforcing the modern ways we assert our own empowerment: through our connections, both manifest and digital. The concept of solely recalling history is not reflective of our modern times.
Black empowerment in 2016 looks different from how our previous history showcased it prior. Thanks to evolving social technology and an ever-increasing vocal youth, our current movement for equality and justice is more intersectional and curious. There are more openly LGBTQ faces trying to help break the barriers that have suppressed us now more than ever. More women are beginning to express themselves in spaces that once undervalued them, and in the new spaces forged by new waves in technology. And those new waves of technology and the intellectual creators behind them are taking us to new heights.
The concept of solely recalling history is not reflective of our modern times.
The mere existence and emergence of social and communications technology is creating a new wave of black empowerment, where something like #1000blackgirlbooks can spark an intersectional movement and create waves of conversation in minutes alone.
But this hasn’t been easy, nor have the journey been fully embraced. Right now, our community is facing an internal conflict – those from the past who argue that millennials striving to be involved are headed in the wrong direction while others fight to reject that.
Which brings me to the Black Lives Matter movement. In an era of social media and 24-hour news, every mistake and mishap an activist group make become an instant headline. Despite all of the pressure, the movement has still been able to strike a nerve in a nation that almost believed that we were living in a post-racial America after President Obama’s election.
But now that the protests continue to take off and the news is at our beckoning call, what’s next? Where do we go from here? Our true allies are few and far in-between and the movement itself is at an interest vertex.
I rather talk the future than discuss a tainted past of historically cleansed narratives and patriarchal retellings. We can’t necessarily come to a consensus on the past, but with a more diverse body of black representation, we might be able to not repeat it. With the advent of social media, we are able to achieve this.
I believe that across the nation our communities can find unity and strength in refocusing on what we can do now.
Now more than ever is the time to include various resources and perspectives together to come to more tangible solutions. I don’t feel as though the divide between those activists of the past and Black Lives Matter should be in a civil conflict – a more respectful space to reconsider.
Lead image property of The All-Nite Images – Flickr