It’s that time of year again, Black History Month. Every February in the United States, the country sets aside 28 (or 29 in a leap year) days to celebrate, discuss and engage Black History. Innocuous enough. And yet Feb. 1st seems to signal the beginning of a 28-day long ritual of whining (how come they get their own month?), misconceptions and endless micro-aggressive racial faux-pas. And this isn’t just from the usual sky boxes of white privilege; there are black people (looking in your general direction Stacey Dash) who wade into…well…the stupid. So here are a few tips to better understand the month, both for those who have to endure the stupid and for those who might be enticed to engage in the stupid.
This is just an updated list from an annual post I’ve done for the last two years. But guess what? It never gets old because the stupid never changes.
“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”– Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as race science blended with the new colonial imperialism, “human zoos” became all the rage in the west. Placed into “natural habitats,” adorned in “traditional dress” and sometimes behind bars, people from “exotic” lands were put on display for a gawking public. All of this to prove the racial theories of the day–that people after all were not alike all over.
Art- Poster of the “Peoples Show” (Völkerschau) in Stuttgart (Germany), 1928
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the activist, orator and the man once referred to in eulogy by the late Ossie Davis as “Our Shining Black Prince,” El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (most commonly known as Malcolm X), I quite foolishly decide to wade into that whole X-Men analogy thingy. Of course I’ve been warned. Of course I know better. But since when has that stopped me? So then, let’s do this thing.
And that supremely bad ass Malcolm & Magneto mash-up art you’re seeing, is courtesy of the amazing John Jennings and his 2012-2013 exhibit Black Kirby. If yuh dunno, now yuh know.
This year after a 4am breakfast party, a night of Dimanche Gras and knowing we have to be on the road to meet our band at 10:00am for Monday mas, we didn’t go into town for Jouvert. Instead, we stayed in Chaguanas–where my father grew up. Liming with my cousin Freddy from the early morning, we made it out to see masses of people (one set ah people!) wining, flinging mud and paint, drinking rum & Stag, and jumping up with the big trucks that rumbled down the main road. Jouvert may not be as big in Chaguanas as it is in Port-of-Spain, but for many it’s enough. Thought this might be a good time to re-post last year’s blog on the early morning festivities and its origin. So if yuh don’t know…
*photo taken this morning, somewhere in Chaguanas.