Debating the future of Black History MonthWritten by Paul Nelson | | email@example.com
As Black History Month winds down, the 80-year-old institution finds itself under attack.
Activist Jesse Lee Peterson, the founder of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, said the observance is outdated and diverts attention and resources from combating real problems in the African-American community.
Oscar winner Morgan Freeman concurred when he said, during an interview on ”60 Minutes,” ”You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”
Until today, Feb. 22, Ohio did not officially recognize Black History Month.
Bill 266, expected to be presented to the Ohio Senate today, aims to put a permanent stamp on the month. Although the state observed the federal status, it has taken 80 years for Ohio to formalize the event.
We initially agreed with the sentiment that designating one month a year to focus on Black history is patronizing and limiting. As Paul Bernish of Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has said news media and corporations often see February as ”we’re going to cover Black History now, now’s when we’re sensitive, and that’s unfortunate.”
But Bernish also said, ”Still, if you’re talking about people learning things they didn’t know, that’s good.”
Last week, a caller to Toledo Free Press criticized what he perceived to be a lack of Black History Month calendar events and listings in our pages. We did compile a list of university-sponsored events and put the spotlight on a few exhibits, films and lectures, but we did not receive a flood of events notices; sad to say, more people have contacted us with events for St. Patrick’s Day than all of Black History Month.
We promised the caller we would make a request to all of the region’s African-American leaders, as well as organizers of events for the Hispanic, Latino, Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern and all other groups, to help us build the calendars and notices. If you have an upcoming event announcement, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to print it in the paper or get it online at www.toledofreepress.com. If you have a story or profile idea, mail the information to email@example.com.
Our hope is that some day, Black history and American history truly merge and we grow beyond the need for a designated reminder month. In the meantime, we are reaching out to ask for your help in making sure our entire community is included in our coverage.