I love Black History Month because it serves as a time to acknowledge the contributions of little-known Black inventors, learn the struggles of Black ancestors and celebrate the victories of how far Black people have come as a whole.
Companies, schools, churches and organizations across the country organize events to pay tribute, but is there an appropriate way to honor Black History Month?
After recent reports in the news, I’m thinking the answer to that question may be "yes." In a recent Gawker article, a tipster told the blog that the Ft. Bragg Army base was celebrating Black History Month with a “Black History Heritage Meal.” This wouldn’t sound bad if it was a presentation about slave cooks, how they had to make ends meet and a sampling of the types of food they had to eat were given, or recipes from famous African-American chefs.
Instead, it was a celebration of stereotypical foods with a menu consisting of fried chicken, pig feet, ham hocks, collard greens and any other food you’d expect to see being eaten at a minstrel show.
Now while this report may or may not be true, it isn’t the only report of “ignorant” ways Black History Month is being celebrated. The New York Times Café has marked the month with a spread including watermelon slices and cornbread, and a previous newspaper ad for the Family Dollar stores suggested to “celebrate Black History Month” by relaxing your hair, as it pictured photos of Luster’s Pink Relaxer, Dark & Lovely, Motions and Ultra Sheen relaxer kits on sale.
Stories like these make me wonder if we’ve forgotten why Black History Month, or any other cultural history day or month, was created. Featuring watermelons as a means to celebrate BHM is like praising Chipotle during Hispanic Heritage Month or giving out free tampons during Women’s History Month. You just don’t do it.
While chicken and relaxers may be products African-Americans have bought, they don’t define Black people as a whole and the contributions they have made to society.
I think it’s time to be a bit more creative.
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(Photo: via Gawker.com)