This weekend I had an awesome opportunity to actually experience and learn something new about black history. I learned about Oscar Micheaux, America’s first black film director and was privy to see his work Within Our Gates, a poignant film from 1920 about education and racial inequities.
While it could be coincidental that this movie was showing during February (black history month) I definitely saw it as an opportunity/attempt at highlighting some black history. I attended the movie with 3 other black people, and based on the crowd…we really stood out. We were probably 4 out of 10 black people in the entire audience…and there was a significant crowd that came out to see the film.
After the film, my friends and I went to eat and we laughed and talked about “why were there so few black people there?” We had no real concrete answers, the most we could come up with was that people just didn’t know.
While that is problematic in itself, it speaks to a larger issue. It got me thinking, are black people doing enough to promote black history? Are black people creating and or seeking opportunities to learn and share black history? Now I am not about to go on a soapbox and preach because I saw one historical black film. Truth be told, I’m usually chilling on my Martin Luther King Jr. Day off from work.
But going to see the film did force me to reflect and think…am I being as proactive as I can be for black history? While some argue on the necessity of black history month, and rather suggest year round knowledge of blacks’ contribution, at the end of the day blacks’ historical relevance beyond slavery and Jim Crow often go untold to the masses. I’m okay with a special month where we try to go a little deeper. But when I say “we” go a little deeper, I’m speaking to the people who make an effort to learn more about black history and/or promote it.
Within my classroom, I started a unit on the Negro Baseball League. My students have been really excited to learn about it, and it goes beyond the typical Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks story. I’ve even taught myself a few things.
At the end of the day…most enlightened, non-prejudiced people are looking to learn. The viewing for Within Our Gates proved to me that other people besides blacks care about black history. I charge everyone, and yes, especially blacks to do the due diligence of just learning one new piece of black history and sharing it.