Thursday, April 7, 2016

Thursentary: Black History Roundup

For a second there I thought I hallucinated Black History Month in February. Turns out it’s celebrated in October AND February, and the world still makes sense.

I didn’t give a lot of thought to BHM at the time. Most of February and early March was a time of dying relatives and neighbors, work, and midterms. It wasn’t a good time for me to care about other people.
Four African American kids
Flickr Credit: simpleinsomnia
My life is making up for it now. Between my school curriculum and the things I’ve been reading just for fun, March and April have given me a chance to look at African American history from many different perspectives and voices. I thought I’d share some of these voices with you in a roundup of sorts. Most of these are books you aren’t going to access for free on the line, but that’s okay. I’m not Cedric, so it’s not my job to entertain you.

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Where do I start? Beloved, by Toni Morrison. It’s true and it’s despicable and it’s amazing. It is about what it means to be women, what it means to be men, what it means to be free after slavery, and what it is about slavery that makes killing your own child seem like the best option out there. There are some things I’m never going to understand… and this book just goes to define those invisible limits.

“Lenox Avenue: Midnight” and “Harlem” and “Theme for English B” are from Langston Hughes. They are my favorite.

Though To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is written by a white author with a white main character, it still shows us a picture of racial injustice in the south. It’s terrible. Also, it’s interesting from a feminist perspective.

If you're a play kind of person, you might check out A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. I kind of want to murder the male main character, but still. Racism, economics, and dreams, pretty much.

Probably it is weird to share your school textbooks with other people. Still. Martin and Malcolm and America by James H. Cone provides a story of civil rights and black nationalism through two of the most famous civil rights leaders. And they aren’t the same, but they aren’t all that different, either. Neither should be forgotten.

On that note, I highly enjoyed Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot or the Bullet.” I don’t agree with everything he says, but he knows what’s up.

I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett for the first time. It was really good. Again, written by a white woman, but a powerful perspective nonetheless. There are a lot of injustices in there that will stick with me for a long time yet.

(This is cheating because I read it last year but Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson is great, too. Black, queer writer, talking about what it was like to grow up in the sixties and seventies. Read it.)

And though this is not American history, but my World Music class brought the South African national anthem to my attention. It is in four different languages and it is beautiful.

Because I can, I will remind you to listen to Hamilton. It is a musical about the (admittedly white) founding fathers, but the operation is set up with POC in the lead, and the messages address racial freedom in their own way. Plus, it is amazing.

Also because I can, ZOOTOPIA. Like Hamilton and To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help and all these things, it is a discussion of race and feminism and who we are as people, except with animals. It is hilarious, it is touching, and it is a reflection of who we are today. So think about that.

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Boom. Reading material for days. Take responsibility for yourself, hunt these down, enjoy them. In the meantime, I’ll be checking out a few of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and also I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Did you do anything for Black History Month (…two months ago, or more recently, I guess)? 


10 comments :

  1. I didn't do anything for black history month except watch a video on facebooks that was annoying and cheesy? Beloved is required reading next year, I think, and I read TKAM for school in ninth grade, and I read the help and it was super interesting. I really want to read Brown Girl Dreaming. Feathers by the same author was really interesting. I also read Passenger, which has a black MC and The River and the Book which was a mostly African allegory in Feburary. But yeah, I live in India and there's like one half black person at our school, so I don't really encounter it much? Though I was doing research for a project and found out that there's a group called the Siddhi who live near where my ancestors came from in South India, who are descended from the slaves that the Portugeuse brought over, but are Indian citizens and all.

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    1. I had to read TKAM for ninth grade, too, actually. I wonder if that's like a thing. Also, Brown Girl Dreaming was quite good; I enjoyed listening to the author read her book. :) Yeah, I think Black History month is a bigger deal in the U.S. just because a significant amount of our population is African American, and their history and experience in our country should be recognized. A country that is more homogenous would have a harder time gathering support and interest for that, I understand. Still, your thoughts on the Siddhi sound cool; I didn't know such a place existed, but that's interesting.

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  2. I didn't know black history month even existed until right now. However, I'm glad to say I have read two of these books. Another English class read Beloved and I've been searching for some adult fiction to read (in an attempt to make myself branch out of YA). I might try to read it when I finish my mocks, then tell you what I think :)

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    1. Oooh, yes. Beloved is so good, so I'd highly recommend it. I mean, it's kind of disturbing, but it's such a good story with important messages and themes that I can't not recommend it.

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  3. It's really good to see BHM getting attention on Blogger. I see a lot of attention from Tumblr, usually. Thanks for all those suggested reads! I'm always reminded of what it means to be an ally, how my first goal should be to listen. Whenever BHM rolls around, I get hat. :)

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    1. Well... I am not a big Tumblr person so this is just my spot to say stuff. XD And yes, listening is so important, and I think books are really crucial because they allow us to hear stories we might otherwise miss out on, especially if we're divided by time, if not place.

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  4. I didn't read anything for Black History month. Despite being a black person, I don't really know what to feel about it (And I'm not American) but I became of BLHM this year because of Twitter and the African-American YouTubers I'm subscribed to.. However, I have read The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird.

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    1. Well, that's okay. I think depending on where we live and what the history is, it can mean different things to different people. BUT I do think it also means something based on the people we care about or value, so you learning about it from Internet sources seems pretty normal and cool to me.

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  5. Thank you so much for this post! <3 I actually haven't read/watched any of these (except of course listening to Hamilton), but I'll definitely put them on the list now. :) I have read several poems by Maya Angelou, though, and her collection Celebrations is especially gorgeous.


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. I'm glad you liked it! (Of course, Hamilton is a given.) I hope you like the books, as well. And I think I will check out that Maya Angelou collection, too. It sounds great!

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