More Than Just A Month

by Peggy Butler

A tribute to our past, present and future. Here's to the winner in all of us!

When dealing with highly controversial issues, we often allow our emotions to overshadow our powers of reason. Thus, the debate as to whether Black History Month should extend beyond its customary timeframe, pits innovators against traditionalists, with each side vigorously arguing their case. As for my take on the topic, I am a purveyor of all things impressive, and believe that Black History is More Than Just a Month, It's A Celebration.

It is a Celebration of the history of a noble race, running roughshod over bondage, obstacles and time eternal. Fearless, proud and infinitely hopeful, that is the essence of our heritage.

It is a Celebration of the legacy of Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois, crying out against injustice, in a country fraught with hate and bigotry.

It is a Celebration of the NAACP, National Urban League and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in their crusade to alleviate the insufferable stench of racism gone awry.

It is a Celebration of the uprisings of Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey in their ill-fated attempt at freedom. So strong were these men in their quest for freedom, they preferred death to enslavement.

It is a Celebration of the soldiers on the battlefield. From the rebel retreat of Fort Wagner during the Civil War to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unsung heroes fighting and dying to keep America safe for democracy.

It is a Celebration of the literary genius of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and Maya Angelou, urging America to redeem its pledge of equal rights for all via the written word.

It is a Celebration of the Revolutionists; Malcolm X, Angela Davis and the Black Panthers, passionately urging Blacks to abandon the "wait and see" attitude and rebel against the White Establishment.

It is a Celebration of the contributions of Dr. Charles Drew, blood plasma founder and Garrett Morgan, creator of the automatic traffic lights; whose inventions helped revolutionize the health and transportation industry.

It is a Celebration of the Nobel Peace Prizes of Ralph J. Bunche and Martin Luther King; two amicable men dedicated to world peace.

It is a Celebration of the athletic prowess of Jesse Owens, racing across the finish line at the 1936 Olympics; Jackie Robinson, breaking baseball's color barrier. And the wizardry of Michael Jordan, showing the world why he was named "the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century." Similarly, we celebrate the brilliance of Venus and Serena Williams, taking tennis to new heights, and the beauty of Tiger Woods' golf stroke; sturdy, on target, an exhibition of immense talent.

It is a Celebration of the diversity of our hair; curly, natural, permed, straight, waved and weaved and the beige, red, brown and blackness of our skin.

Lastly, it is a Celebration of the stunning victory of Barack Obama's ascension to the presidency. For years African-Americans have been told to wait. Wait for justice. Wait for equality. Wait for the right to be treated with courtesy and respect. Wait for the right to vote. Wait for the right to enter the front door of a hotel or restaurant without being arrested by law enforcement officials. Now the wait was over, as we watched a man of biracial heritage, become the 44th President of the United States. Oh Happy Day!

That is why we celebrate. To tell our story in our own words. In debating whether Black History should be celebrated throughout the year, it is good to focus on the actions and accomplishments of dignitaries past and present. However, attention should also focus on lesser known heroes and heroines. We know that were it not for Dr. King, opportunities for African-Americans would be virtually non-existent. Similarly, without Harriet Tubman, slaves seeking refuge would not have found solace via the Underground Railroad.

But what about those pioneers at the local and state level, those anonymous men and women who paved the way, so that future generations could enjoy the amenities entitled to all people. Their contributions should not be confined to musty, photo albums and faded newspaper clippings. They too were instrumental in establishing the democracy of our modern history, and deserve to be enshrined in the scripted walls of the immortals. In retrospect, African-Americans have made imposing contributions big and small, to the dazzling archives that personify Black History. And that is why it should be celebrated, every day of the year.

More Than Just A Month by Peggy Butler

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