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ISSUE 116 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/28/2003

Black History month in perspective: The Cultural Union for Black Expression hosts events

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 28, 2003

The celebration of black history began in 1926 with Carter Woodson, a Harvard graduate and former dean of Howard University. What we recognize today as Black History Month, however, was originally just “Negro History Week”, a time to reflect on black history’'s significance to American history.

Woodson chose the month of February because it is the birth month of two respected leaders, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This weeklong celebration, Woodson hoped, would introduce black history into mainstream American life and become a permanent and valued aspect of U.S. history.

As Akilah Monifa states in the Black History Bulletin, "he “fervently hoped that the history of African Americans … would be observed throughout the year.”"

Today the celebration has surpassed the historical realm and now also praises the achievements of black individuals in the sciences, humanities, business and athletics.

Across the nation, cities have been honoring black individuals and educating others on the importance and uniqueness of black culture. In Minneapolis and in other parts of Hennepin County, for instance, a four-part lecture series was presented, featuring prominent black educators. In addition, the events allowed the community to taste East and West African fare, Caribbean delights and soul foods.

In Washington D.C., numerous museums focused on black achievements in jazz, dance, and the film industry this month.

In general, during the month of February, more articles are published about African Americans, more movies focus on black history issues, and museums and libraries hold special events to educate the public.

Despite these positive activities, some people question the value of a month devoted to black history. Critics argue that it allows the press and other institutions the opportunity to divulge black history during one month and skim over it during the remaining months of the year.

Monifa writes, “"Black History Month has become a ready-made excuse to ignore African American history for the other 11 months of the year. It’s little more than a bone to throw to us, not amends enough."”

Further, Monifa states that the month has become a “marketing weapon” for advertisers and book publishers. Also, she notes, additional marketing efforts are aimed at African American communities for products like liquor, cigarettes and soda.

Monifa remarks that the only true place that Black History Month is aptly given due praise is in school curriculum, not in the public or from the government.

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