It was about this time last year; I was driving and listening to one of the music radio stations in Phoenix, Ariz. The host of the particular show I was listening to took the obligatory “let’s recognize Black History Month moment” and shared with her listeners that that day’s historical honoree was … drum roll, please … Donna Summer.
I paused for a moment and tried to figure out what the five-time Grammy Award winner did, besides being an extremely talented singer, which warranted this type of
Now, I love me some Donna Summer – “Last Dance” is one of my favorites from the Disco era – but unless there is some E! “True Hollywood Story” or “Unsung” episode on the late singer planned that enlightens us all with more than the stellar recording career she had, to this day, I still am not sure that I agree with this particular honoree.
For ANY Black History Month recognition.
Now the fact that I was in the capitol of Arizona – the same Arizona that has spawned several lawmakers that seem to have a different definition of “diversity” than the rest of us (think the MLK Day fiasco, Sheriff Joe and Madam Gov. Brewer), I shouldn’t have been so surprised.
But I was.
Growing up, Black History Month was a big thing … especially for those who, like me, did not grow up in a black community. It was a time that the country turned to you and said, you are important … at least for 28 days. But despite the time frame, it was an opportunity to learn about people that looked like me … a little black fish in a sea of white and brown waves.
People like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. People like Frederick Douglass and George Washington Carver. People whose blood, sweat and tears not only helped build this country, but who never truly got the recognition they deserve until after their death.
As I grew older and became an adult, and the advancement of Blacks became more “appreciated,” people like Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges and Dr. Maya Angelou were recognized for their Civil Rights efforts. And one day, my grandchildren will learn about our country’s first black president and the steps he took to end hatred and bigotry and support equality on all levels.
Actors, educators and even celebrities like Summer have and continue to open doors for young Black youth – and I don’t deny this for a moment. They should be recognized and honored as playing an important role in not only Black history, but all history.
However, if we want our children, our grandchildren and their children to stay connected to their history, we must teach them and honor people whose efforts did more than win them a music award.
And maybe one day, we will honor people who made it possible to honor Black and other cultural history more than 28 days a year.
Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig is an award-winning, professional journalist who resides in Oakland. If you have an individual, organization, issue or other topic that may be of interest to our readers, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Need more stirring? Visit stpminute.blogspot.com.