I remember you Steve Biko
It’s every day, my way of life,
How I was taught
How I remember
How I continue the fight
I salute you all fallen heroes
Onkgopotse Tiro, Robert Sobukwe, Malcom X,
I read and share your stories every day
Chant your names
Audre Lorde, Taytu Betul, Mirriam Makeba
I call out to you great ancestors,
Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Thomas Sankara
I give thanks to you
Toussaint Louverture, Kwame Nkrumah, Kwame Ture
For my sanity I call out
Aluta Continua I call out
Not yet uhuru!
The blood shed was not in vain
Soldier on we must
Bob Marley I call out for my people’s emancipation from mental slavery
I draw courage and resilience from you
Winnie Mandela, Lilian Ngoyi, Charlotte Maxeke
Judged and persecuted for this black skin
In these nervous conditions,
I remember you Frans Fanon
Yes let’s scrap Black History Month and sustain the suppression of our freedoms! Let us deny ourselves the time to interrogate and reflect on our past. “Black history is American history!” said two actors once in separate interviews.
Would Carter G. Woodson agree that American history is Black history? For his efforts and many others who give their time to initiatives like Black History Month, and in South Africa observations like the Human Rights Day and June 16, for the restoration and remembrance of our histories.
One of the most painful realizations of the black experience is the denial and distortion of our history. And the process of discarding the lies, learning and unlearning ‘truths’, decolonizing, liberating self against the watchful eye of white supremacy is agonizing to say the least.
It is also hard for FORGIVENESS to materialize with NO ADMISSION of the crimes committed against Black people but instead we are met with more resistance by way of accusations and machinations. “Why are Black people so damn sensitive, they should move on already?” The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established after the first democratic elections in South Afrika was unsuccessful in providing the catharsis and reconciliation that was hoped for precisely because of the resistant tactics and lack of accountability.
The US, Canada and UK have a month to celebrate Black History and in South Afrika we have less than ten days spread across the calendar. They may seem menial to others as in the case of the aforementioned Afrikan American actors who declared the Black History Month commemoration useless and argued Black history was American history. Reactionary commentary like theirs is problematic and neglects to see the many strides and greater ones that are achievable with the support and solidarity of the Black community across the globe.
Rather than critique the controversial BET stable one of the actors failed to recognize the importance of the platform, a Black institution which should be seen and used for the advancement of the Black struggle. We need to strengthen these spaces and moments of celebration, grow them! What if we forgot the Oscars, the Grammy and the likes and permanently boycotted them? And rallied support for our own Black conscious work and companies and products, our autonomy, freedom!
What has American history taught us?
We learn everyday of its selective memory.
American history has always written people and events out.
American history does not acknowledge the genocide it committed against Native Americans but chooses to romanticize the land grabs marked by the Thanksgiving Celebration, the same land it denies Afrikan Americans and wealth built on the backs of their ancestors nor will it admit to the trickery and dehumanization of Mexicans that continues to this day. It will never speak of its conspiracies against Latin Americans, Africans and Asians.
American History is Black History they say?
In America, Black History has been a learning opportunity of the histories and individuals that remind us of the conniving ways of capitalism that birthed the observance of Juneteenth and a chance to interrogate the systemic injustice like the prison industrial complex that murdered George Jackson, denies Mumia Abu-Jamal medication and let’s not forget the 6x9 feet cells and detention centers for us immigrants that threaten our lives every day.
Black history is also about its survival and contribution to our self-realization, self-determination and self-sustenance. What also begs our immediate attention and interrogation is the cultural misappropriation by the west kept alive by our high levels of consumerism.
Let’s not only celebrate Black History Month, but join in on the commemoration of the history of Native Americans, of the people of Nicaragua and Cuba, rally behind the people of Palestine and Western Sahara. Find our way into the discovery of many more histories hidden and denied in the Library of Congress and in the basements of European museums.
For knowledge is survival, so for whose comfort is dismissing Black commemorations as was the attempt in South Afrika to rebrand Heritage Day celebrating our diverse cultures to ‘National Braai Day. And while it may be fun and trendy, at what cost is the compromise?
Against 500 years of disarray it may seem insignificant but these are moments of freeing ourselves, of imagining and moving towards realizing a postcolonial society. Where’s your beginning, how are you liberating yourself and others around you or are you just keeping watch over the fence of your own privilege making sure we stay in our assigned boxes?
Wise women once said, “That which causes you discomfort is a cause for interrogation”.