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Tag Archives: Black History Month
A Super Bowl Salute
It’s here! This Super Bowl moment is the day some fans have “waited” for “since 2006 (David Cheek on Facebook)!!!”
Heralded as the “Big Game” Super Bowl fever has been swept all over New Jersey, the state in which the game is going to be played, and New York, the state in which tourists, visitors, and diehard fans are going to spend all of their money and time.
Not much of a football fan, I sometimes don’t understand why some people would actually want to sit in a cold stadium and watch big, burly, lean, fit, strong, virile men shuffle up and down a grassy field with the objective of getting a leather ball from one end to the next. But then again, we are talking about watching beautiful men using football to serve a far greater purpose than the entertainment of the stadium spectators. These men are beautiful because most of the NFL players suit up to save their lives and the lives of others; while the armor they wear may be uniform so as to identify the teams with which they play, each player’s uniform is his own distinct Super Hero costume. When the players are in the personal huddles of their minds, they discuss the worries of their lives that include the loss of loved ones and the obligation to financially and emotionally support their family members. Some of them repeatedly, and in flashing moments, run through how they could have handled a high-profile, public situation differently. They also use the game as the one medium they can use to access incarcerated friends and family. Suddenly the “Big Game” comes with high stakes so I tune in to watch the players navigate these plays in life.
During this Black History month, I’d like to salute the NFL for hosting a profitable and accommodating space for Black players to engage in these personal life huddles, and for providing the means for them to be able to financially solve some of these issues. While money cannot fix every player’s problems as is evident in the suicide deaths of players like Paul Oliver and Javon Belcher, many of the NFL’s Black players are able to experience life completely different from what any of them ever could have imagined. They have greater access to being better people because of the notoriety that comes along with the game. I don’t doubt, however, that many of these players would do philanthropic and humanitarian gestures even if there were no paparazzi lights.
I salute these players even more for seizing the opportunity, through prayer, hard work, and talent, to use the NFL as tool to enrich their lives and the lives of others.
There will always be arguments about the treatment of Black players in institutions like the NFL and NBA like what the fantastic Mr. Bill Rhoden laid out in his book $40 Million Dollar Slaves. Generally, there is no institution without its share of setbacks and marginalization. According to USA Today, Black players
are 10 times more likely to be arrested than White players. The kryptonite that effects some of these Black players (Black players make up approximately 65% of the NFL according to reports by William Rhoden and others) are societal ills like profiling, racism, and a lack of humanity. Through it all, they persevere most times by rising above these issues and committing to the excellence of taking their teams to the Super Bowl.
In 1933, there were 2 Black players and the NFL did not have any more Black players until after World War II. Today the level of sportsmanship, athleticism and notoriety that Black players have added to the NFL makes it hard to believe that football could even have been a sport without them.
Happy Super Bowl Sunday and here’s a Super salute to the NFL’s Black players!
American History is Black History
“No man knows what he can do until he tries.” –Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
It’s officially Black History Month! This month we celebrate, in greater concentration, the phenomenal acknowledgement and representation of Black People in America.
I especially love this time of year because I get to experience potent lectures, panels, movie screenings, plays, performances, etc. with the common thread of showcasing Black excellence.
This is also the time of year in which I get to read commentaries on how Black History Month is racist and unnecessary since Blacks have not been the only contributors to America’s prominence, and because America has moved beyond slavery. Some of these arguments make me laugh and others just lead me to shake my head; none of these arguments ever get to the core of understanding how America gained the leverage to attract others’ continual immigration and pursuit of opportunity in America in the first place.
Black people have evolved the human race and some still insist on resisting this evolution.
“The bondage of the Negro brought captive from Africa is one of the greatest dramas in history, and the writer who merely sees in that ordeal something to approve or condemn fails to understand the evolution of the human race.” –Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
I support that other races and ethnicities have contributed greatly to our America; Marcus Garvey’s work influenced one of America’s greatest, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), many Chinese workers constructed the trans-continental Railroad, and Hispanics like Cesar Chavez worked tirelessly for the advancement of Hispanics as they continue to come to America. But like historian and Black History Month Founder Carter G. Woodson, I also support that Black Americans have been terribly misrepresented, underrepresented, and ignored as contributors in the greater American success story.
In 1926, the Virginia historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History which he founded, began Negro History Week to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. By 1976 (such a great year), Negro History Week had become federally recognized as Black History Month.
Carter G. Woodson was an academic who found it imperative for Black American history to serve a greater role within school curricula.
“As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.” –Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
He was a self-proclaimed radical; and, Woodson was a fearless man who was relentless in his pursuit to honor the contributions of Black America using the expertise he had gained from his education in Berea College, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University. Mr. Woodson eventually wrote his acclaimed, The Mis-Education of the Negro in 1933 which has sold over a million copies and has been in print for 81 years.
He had numerous teaching stints in places like the Philippines and the prestigious Howard University. His greatest influencers, besides the history of his own parents’ enslavement and perseverance, were the relationships he developed with other self-determined Blacks like W.E.B DuBois, Arturo Schomburg, and what he felt he had not been learned properly about Black Americans.
There are institutions and organizations worldwide that celebrate and continue his work; my very own alma mater, Virginia State University, has a Carter G. Woodson Avenue on which sits our United States Department of Agriculture supported building, named in honor of the first Black governor of Virginia and any state since Reconstruction, Mr. Douglas Wilder.
American economics and politics were created as a result of the presence and citizenship of Black Americans, since colonial times. In the midst of the state’s rights argument was the issue of how states would be represented in Congress–that argument was fixed through the passing of the Three-Fifths Compromise. From Jamestown to the Constitution, from the Black Farmers to the Prison Pipeline conundrum plaguing urban communities to President Obama, there is more to learn about Black Americans than the untruths foreigners learn and bring with them to America. There’s more to learn about Black Americans than the scornful, resentful sentiment other Americas cast in our direction.
To love America is to acknowledge Black Americans.
Through Carter G. Woodson’s efforts, he has left an enduring and persistent legacy in how I define Black Americans.
- An elite and small group of descendants of indigenous Africans (mostly of Western Africa); native people BORN in the United States of America due to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade;
- NOT immigrants; Citizens.
- Architects and maintainers of America’s infrastructure; preservers of America’s food bank; innovators of American culture; creators of America’s multitudinous opportunities.
- Inheritors of racism, discrimination, prejudice, black codes, Jim Crow, the New Jim Crow, the Prison Industrial Complex, mandatory sentencing drug laws, and all other disparate American behaviors; Stalwarts.
- Reflectors of why America is NOT a “more perfect Union.”
- Americans; Survivors;