Is There a Need for Black History Month? or Year?

We seem to forget the many civil rights organizations and efforts that still operate daily in this country, trying to bring change. One in New England is Basic Black, which was set up

in 1968 during the turmoil of the civil rights movement as a response to the demand for public television programs reflecting the concerns of African Americans. Now, forty years later, in the midst of another historical political shift, the mission of Basic Black remains strong.

On their useful website, Basic Black folks have many important discussions of racial issues today. One editorial recently is by Rev. Irene Monroe on debates, especially among conservatives and younger Americans of all politics stripes, about “Do We Still Need to Celebrate Black History Month? Her answer is a strong yes, and in the process she makes some important points:

February 1 began Black History Month, a national annual observance since 1926, honoring and celebrating the achievements of African-Americans. This February 1, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum (ICRCM) opened in Greensboro, North Carolina, honoring the courageous action of four African-American students. …. Fifty years ago on February 1, 1960, the now ICRCM was a Woolworth’s store and the site of the original sit-in . . . . And as a result of their civil disobedience, sit-ins sprung up not only in Greensboro but throughout the South.

She then quotes and dissects the problem of collective forgetting and societal erasure (Jane Hill’s term) that is so common in the U.S. today:

However, for a younger generation of African- Americans as well as whites, whose ballots helped elect this country’s first African-American president, celebrating Black History Month seems outdated.

Thanks of course to the aggressive socialization of almost everyone in elements of the old white racial frame, which naively or inaccurately insists white racism is now dead.

She also makes a key but rare point about how LGBTQ folks get left out of too much Black history, including in this month:

Within the African- American LGBTQ community, Black History Month has always come under criticism. … The absence of LGBTQ people of African descent in the month-long celebration is evidence of how race, gender and sexual politics of the dominant culture are reinscribed in black culture as well…. . And because of this heterosexist bias, the sheroes and heroes of LGBTQ people of African decent – like Pat Parker, Audre Lorde, Essex Hemphill, Joseph Beam, and Bayard Rustin – are mostly known and lauded within a subculture of black life.

We need a new era of collective remembrance on all these issues. How about 12 Black history months every year?