Look. I’m aware that Black History Month officially ended this past Saturday at 11:59 p.m. I am also very much aware that I haven’t posted anything pertaining to black history during the entire month of February. But guess what?? The conclusion of the shortest month on the calendar (oh, the irony) shouldn’t limit our ability to acknowledge black excellence for the remaining 337 days of the year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that we have an entire month (give or take a few days) dedicated to the rich legacy of our African American predecessors. But paying homage to numerous people who fought to break down the racial barriers of our society shouldn’t start and end within a 28-day period. Like my melanin forefathers, I don’t do very well with confinement — especially when it comes to race. Consider it a social claustrophobia of sorts.
The incessant stereotypical foolywang that the media outlets try to shove in our faces every chance they get doesn’t take away from the profound heritage that is deeply rooted — and still alive — within black culture. I’ll use my beloved Alma Mater, Howard University, as an example, which is especially fitting since yesterday marked 148 years since its chartering in 1867.
Simply put, my experience at HU was irreplaceable. Of course, like the average college student, I was exposed to nonstop parties, late-night cram sessions for exams (as a result of attending said parties), an overwhelming abundance of alcohol and an underwhelming selection of on-campus food. Oh, and let’s not forget the more-than-occasional, less-than-pleasant encounters with the financial aid office.
But unlike the average college student, I was exposed to something much greater than everything I just mentioned — a diverse majority of young, black intellectuals. Translation: Black excellence at its prime.
I will never forget what someone once told me years ago, during a discussion we were having about attending HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities). This person actually said — and I quote — “If you’ve seen five black people, you’ve seen ’em all.”
The one thing sadder than the statement itself was the fact that the person who made it was black. And the even sadder thing is, it’s a lot of other black people out there who share those same sentiments. But before I go off on a scribal rant (’cause my “set it off” spidey senses are tingling right now), I’ll just stop right here (Woo-sah). Now back to black excellence.
Howard is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever experienced. It draws thousands upon thousands of people of color from all over the world: Africa, the Caribbean and Europe, just to name a few. It isn’t nicknamed “The Mecca” for no reason.
So for every “five black people” I would meet on campus, each one of them had a different story to tell. A different culture, a different upbringing, a different perspective. It enhanced my outlook on not only my racial identity, but on the magnitude of history and cultural diversity within the African Diaspora as a whole. So that debunks that terribly simple-minded theory mentioned earlier. Moving right along…
I can’t mention Howard and black history in the same subject without shedding light on the historic legends that once graced The Yard of HU: Thurgood Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, Roberta Flack, Toni Morrison, Cookie and Luscious Lyon (previously known as Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard), Wendy Raquel Robinson (aka Tasha Mack), Lance Gross (*swoons*), Anthony Anderson, Diddy, Chadwick Boseman… OK, I done ran out of keyboard breath. Y’all get the picture.
Point is, black excellence is an “all day, err day” ordeal. Yes, devoting a month to recognize those who have paved the way for people of color is awesome. But it shouldn’t start and end with one month. Truthfully, there aren’t even enough days in the year.