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Black History Month Leads by Example
|by Aneeta Chakrabarty|
During the “Red summer” of 1919, the skies bled terror as violent race riots gripped several major cities of America – Atlanta, Chicago, Washington DC and New Orleans to name a few. Death traveled fast in the dark night claiming at least 83 lives. While dreadful gloom stalked the Black nation, one professor of Harvard, Dr. Carter Woodson agonized over the cultural and historically deprived landscape of African Americans that robbed them of their pride and left them defenseless against withering scorn and vitriolic venom of their masters. He pondered deeply about the angst blacks faced surviving at a razor’s edge, and felt the need for a collective Black consciousness.
Rising like a phoenix Black History month provided the uprooted and liberated slaves a psychological ground to stand upon by shining a mirror to the cultural treasures of ancient Africa. In addition, it mapped the past with the victim’s version of History retrieved from the hazy mists of Time, and pointed to a future with freedom of the mind. Little did Dr. Woodson realize at that time, that the seeds of historical and cultural awareness created by Black History month would spawn a prolific catharsis of stories, ideas, legends, poetry, literature, folklore, theatre, music, movements, social-connectedness, and a sense of community which would eventually lay the grassroots groundwork for Martin Luther King’s transforming revolution, and Barack Obama to be elected as President. It was truly a life altering experience that not only changed the way a black man looked at himself, but also how America looked at the black man. The amazing confidence and tough grit that resulted can be symbolized by the electrifying poetry of Maya Angelou. “You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise.”
A month long celebration endorsed and promoted with manifold themes will impact people’s world views, increase communication, spark creativity and foment real social change. An Indian version of Black History Month where Indian history is celebrated, Indian artists are promoted, Indian literature is admired, Indian poetry is eulogized, Indian heroes are honored and many Indian themes are researched, and widely distributed will generate a momentum for exploring India’s far flung historical and cultural borders. Moreover the rising tide of vitality will bring together Indians from different corners of India, broaden horizons and develop an appreciation and tolerance for different cultures. As the realization grows that for India to thrive, it needs the intellect of the South, the vigor of the North, the art of the East and the commerce of the West, cultural sensitivity and empathy will increase. Hopefully this would also avoid stereotyping as is routinely done in Bollywood regarding South Indians, Parsis, Sardars, Baniyas, Brahmins and the rural folk. Also, little known names boldfaced in History such as Subramanium Bharati, Ramanujam, V.V.S Aiyer, Shaitan Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Bina Das, Usha Mehta would be as much in the common consciousness as Bhagat Singh or Subhash Chandra Bose.
In the recent past, Hmong youth acquired cultural pride when a new California bill got passed that would ensure that the history of Southeast Asians would be included in the text book curriculum. A Hmong writer, Connie Vang wrote in the new American Media, “When people don’t know their cultural History, they don’t know a part of themselves. As a result, they may react negatively, even resenting their culture.” Also “when we know the war and atrocities that happened to our cultures in the past, we can prevent it from happening in the future.”
Image (c) gettyimages.com
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02/24/2014 23:08 PM
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