As we come to the end of Black History Month, the shortest month made longer by a day this leap year, it seems fitting to talk about this documentary. In this film, Shukree Hassan Tilghman, a 29-year-old African American filmmaker, goes cross-country on a campaign to end Black History Month altogether in his film,“More Than a Month.” This short clip (1:56) gives a brief intro:
In an interview, the Tilghman explains what lead him to make the film:
A growing feeling that African Americans continue to be seen as “Other Americans.” Watching how folks were treated during Hurricane Katrina and listening to pundits refer to those victims as refugees intensified that notion. I thought that this ideal of “other” is reinforced in society by things like Black History Month. That, combined with the new idea that we live in a “post-racial” America, led to an interest in exploring these themes.
Today is Mardi Gras (French for “fat Tuesday”) is the celebration of debauchery before the beginning of the Lenten season of sacrifice. As it is celebrated in New Orleans, it’s also a fabulous celebration of black history.
NPR ran a story today (h/t Karen Hanson) about the Mardi Gras Indians who have a rich history, dating back to slavery.
Native Americans often helped escaped slaves navigate their way to freedom and sometimes former slaves lived within Native American communities as free people.
The outfits of the Mardi Gras Indian groups, who call themselves “tribes,” are inspired by Native American ceremonial regalia. Members call these costumes “suits,” and it can take up to a year to create the intricate designs out of thousands of sequins, beads and pounds of feathers. In this way, the costumes are strikingly similar to those on display at the West Indian Day Festival in Crown Heights Brooklyn each summer.
Both celebrations speak to the power of resilience in the face of oppression and the similarities suggest the ways that diaspora shapes culture. For more about diaspora, check out Theorizing Diaspora (Wiley-Blackwell, 2003).