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  • Black History Month is again in full swing. Originally envisioned by the renowned historian Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week, since 1976 the nation has been asked to take the month of February to recall and celebrate the unique contribution of African Americans aka Negroes aka Colored folks aka Black people to the American story. To truly appreciate the mistold and overlooked history and why it is so important that America focuses on it, one need look no further than Woodson’s works. These include one of the most passionate arguments against white supremacy ever written, Carter G. Woodson’s Appeal, written in 1921 and The Miseducation of the Negro (which should be required reading for every American, and which can be read in its entirety here), if for no other reason than his now 80-year old evaluation of the fundamental issues affecting the psyche of Black Americans and our collective relationship to this country's majority (in this author's opinion) remains true to this day:
    When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.
  • The 2013 theme for Black History Month is "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington". This theme succinctly evokes the watchful hopefulness that many Black Americans feel this year, which is both celebrating the Jubilee (the 150th anniversary of the Proclamation) and the 50-Year Anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom. The watchful hopefulness that many of us had, in some measure, when President Barack Hussein Obama was elected, then inaugurated, as the nation's first Black President. As President Obama noted in his proclamation honoring this month:
    We look back to the men and women who helped raise the pillars of democracy, even when the halls they built were not theirs to occupy. We trace generations of African Americans, free and slave, who risked everything to realize their God-given rights. We listen to the echoes of speeches and struggle that made our Nation stronger, and we hear again the thousands who sat in, stood up, and called out for equal treatment under the law. And we see yesterday's visionaries in tomorrow's leaders, reminding us that while we have yet to reach the mountaintop, we cannot stop climbing.
    These are the nuanced words of the (self-identified, 'nuff said) Black man who was re-elected with what may have been the largest Black voter turnout in US history despite Republicans and their sympathizers going to hell and back trying to keep that from happening, efforts which just, let's be honest, led to a should-have-been-totally-predictable backlash when those efforts pissed off a lot of the Black electorate, much of which either remembers personally or is reminded by living relatives of what we went through as a people to try and secure the franchise (Lest we all forget, it was less than 50 years ago that Black folks were being maimed and killed on a regular basis just trying to vote like every other American.) Even for those who revile President Obama, his words should be taken as, too, evidence of the watchful hopefulness that most Black Americans have when it comes to politics today. Since it is that watchful hopefulness that even those of us Black folk who have legitimate, serious, concerns about many of the policies of the Obama Administration nonetheless adore and appreciate his presidency, and always will.
  • Amongst the many things to celebrate this Black History Month is a significant decrease in the projected number of cancer deaths experienced within the African American community, particularly among males. While cancer rates and deaths are, happily, decreasing for everyone, Black males experienced the largest decline in projected diagnoses and deaths amongst groups. Odds of developing cancer, and 5-year survival rates, are still not at racial parity because of differences in access to early diagnosis and treatment (since yes, a higher percentage of Black people live in poverty including without access to affordable health care.) But the long term trends are looking more hopeful than ever.
  • With the annual celebration of the accomplishments of African-Americans becoming more intertwined into America's cultural fabric each year since 1976, more and more calendars featuring African Americans are being published by someone other than Jet magazine (I'm confident that some of you brothers and sisters are old enough to remember those Jet calendars.). One of the most interesting calendars this year? The "Complementary and Alternative Medicine" calendar celebrating "Black professionals who practice physical and alternative healing" put out for 2013 by that bastion of progressivism (at least when it comes to celebrating Black History Month; the company has published a calendar highlighting Black professional accomplishments in all fields for the last 30 years), Aetna. (Yes, that Aetna.)
  • This month also marked two things long overdue. The first was issuance of an absolutely (in this author's opinion) beautiful stamp honoring Rosa Parks. A "Forever" stamp, no less. This means that, like Sis. Parks herself, it will never become obsolete. (Keep your eyes out the entire "Civil Rights" stamps series, including the Emancipation Proclamation stamp issued by USPS during last month's Jubilee, and the one celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom in August.)  The second was release of a biography about Mrs. Parks, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. (You can read the introduction to the book here.) This biography will probably shock and dismay those who emotionally need to keep their image of the "humble" "quiet" and "soft-spoken" seamstress who was tired from work and thus refused to give up her seat" intact. Certainly, the book makes clear that the story of Rosa Parks that kids learn about in preschool is another example of the shaping of history in a way to render this otherwise activist for racial equality "not threatening" in the minds of the larger population. Just as was the case with Dr. King; indeed, the point has made that when one looks at who this great woman really was, instead of who mythology says she was, one will find as much Malcolm X in Sis. Parks as Dr. King.
  • In keeping with our trying to reclaim the lost stories of our heroes of African-American descent, folks in Denver, Colorado, are focusing efforts on trying to see that a a former slave named Julia Greeley, known to some as the Angel of Charity, is elevated to sainthood someday.
  • Unfortunately, the ultimate goal of celebrations like Black History Month appears to have been lost on some.  This seems especially true for the membership of the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America), whose CEO sent out a message celebrating Black History Month without mentioning that CCA is making mad profits off a criminal justice system that has resulted in today there more being Black men in jail, on probation or on parole than there were slaves in the United States at the time of the Civil War (38% of all incarcerated people in the United States today.) Fortunately, we have the ACLU, which created the image you see next to this item, to keep CCA and the rest of us honest in this regard.
  • CCA's tone-deaf efforts to celebrate Black History Month while having a disproportionately adverse effect on the lives of actual Black people aside, not everyone is even as sanguine as CCA about this idea of celebrating Black people throughout the diaspora. As has been the case every year, certain folks make clear that they just can't having to think about Black folks for a whole month (the shortest month in the year, mind you, as the prophet Gil Scott Heron once noted in his masterpiece The Ghetto Code). Thus, as is usually the case each year, we have renewed hue and cry all of which can be summed up in the never-ending question: "What about White History Month?" Despite the long list of months celebrating other ethnicities proving that almost every month but February is "White History Month", the resentment continues. Indeed, we even have Kossacks who evince similar types of narrowminded thinking, one going so far as to state (and I quote) that “Black History Month is for children.” Seriously. Even though the month and its goals are now embraced in other nations, such as Canada and Australia, it seems that here in America, we still have haters on the idea that all Americans need to be educated, or to be accurate re-educated, about We Who Are Dark, and, for the most part, descend from America's slaves.
  • Either way, those who are so worried about the clearly discriminatory practice of celebrating America's least favorite racial minority that they are coming up with never-ending "White History Month" campaigns are just flat out ridiculous.
  • For those who question why, with things like Jim Crow well behind us and especially with a Black president in the White House, we still even need Black History Month, this writer sums it far better than I ever could (be sure to click through each of her links:)
    Black History Month is needed:

    •  When the attitudes towards the lives of 300 black children killed by gun violence in Chicago in the past three year are treated differently from 20 first graders killed in Newtown, Connecticut;

    •  When the conservative leaders of our country try to deny many blacks the right to vote through unnecessary voter ID laws and unnecessary IDs;

    •  When the prison system is overflowing with more black males than any other race or ethnicity.

    •  When many young black males have a direct pipeline from the school house to the jail house;

    •  When blacks who have completed their prison terms and paid their debt to society are disenfranchised from voting;

    •  When the black unemployment rate is almost twice that of the country's average;

    •  When the sub-prime mortgage industry targeted blacks causing a disproportionate number of blacks to lose their homes through foreclosure;

    •  When affirmative action is still needed to ensure a level playing field for blacks;

    •  When Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, is shot and killed while returning home because of suspicious activity based on the color of his skin;

    Until we perfect our union, rid it of racism, and Dr. King's dream of a beloved community becomes a reality, we will continue to need Black History Month. I only wish we could go far beyond Black History Month and cure what ails us as a society.

  • The LAPD wants us all to know that even if a completely-out-of-control Black ex-cop named Christopher Dorner claims, before going off on a murder spree targeting his former colleagues that there is rampant racism in the LAPD (which he claims led to him getting fired when he whistleblew), we should pay it no mind. This is because paying some mind might result in a "rallying cry for the disaffected." It also "opens old wounds" and, thus, "isn't needed." In other words, even if increasing numbers of people are quietly saying "not everything this maniac killing people says about the racism isn't true" even as they condemn Dorner's actions, what really matters most is the impact on the LAPD's image in the communities it is accused of still engaging in brutality against (primarily Black, but increasingly Latino). Brutality like that which received tacit SCOTUS approval in City of Los Angeles v. Lyons 40 years ago. Brutality that has been documented publicly as recently as 2 years ago. San Bernadino police participating in the manhunt also want us to know that we shouldn't be surprised if the "hearty" residents of Big Bear (where the perpetrator ditched his burnt-out car on Thursday) decided to "take matters into their own hands" as it relates to the still-at-large ex-cop. (Because, of course, the most logical thing to do if you're law enforcement engaged in a manhunt is to tacitly encourage local residents with guns to dish out some vigilante justice rather than encourage them to hunker down, call if they see anything, and wait for the police to do their job catching the suspect.)
  • Speaking of snow, hopefully those Kossacks living on the northeastern seaboard will have electricity to actually read this Sunday open thread. This year's first "potentially historic" megastorm/uberblizzard (named "Nemo" by some, although nor'easters aren't supposed to have names!) began barreling down on them on Friday, complete with evacuations, power outages, mass transit stoppage, travel bans, more than 5,000 cancelled flights (as of Friday afternoon), and 5 governors having declared states of emergency even before the blizzard started in earnest. Of course, the anticipated 3 feet of snow in Connecticut is just more evidence that there is really no such thing as climate change that might sooner-than-we'd-like be reshaping the coastal towns of America.
  • Finally, to all those celebrating Chinese New Year all around the world starting this weekend Kung Hai Fat Choi as you welcome the Year of the Snake. (I'm sorry I don't know how to do the characters in HTML……….)

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 11:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Black Kos community.

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