Here’s my article on Black History Month
Post it, repost it, Facebook it, Tweet it…just get the word out.
The Daily Egyptian version can be found here: http://dailyegyptian.com/2012/02/26/022712_guestcolumn_opinion/
Here is the submitted version:
On Thursday evening, I had the privilege of being a panelist at the event “Rosa Parks Did More than Sit on a Bus.” The purpose of the event was to highlight the accomplishments of Black women: accomplishments that are often minimalized and rendered invisible. And while the event had quite a turnout, the powerful stories of these women deserve to be told in a much larger forum.
As we near the end of Black History Month, I write with a sense of urgency that challenges us all to think beyond February and recognize how each of our histories are intrinsically linked to the histories of Black women all year long. As a white man I cannot ignore that my humanity is intrinsically linked to the humanity of women like Dorothy Height, Jo Ann Robinson, Coretta Scott King, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, bell hooks, Recy Taylor, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth.
My history is Black history. My history is Women’s history. Black history is American history and the success of America is predicated on the recognizing, the learning, and the educating of all our histories.
For example, we have always asked important questions about the role of Black leaders such as Dr. King. Now I love Dr. King, but we must remember that it was Ella Baker who was organizing folks in the street. Ella Baker who mobilized the marches and the movements once Dr. King and other men had left town. Ella Baker who taught John Lewis how to lead SNCC over that bridge in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday in 1965.
And when we remember Malcolm X proclaiming “by any means necessary” we need to remember that it was Fannie Lou Hamer in 1964 who testified in front of the Democratic National Convention that she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Fannie Lou was a sharecropper from Ruleville, Mississippi who sat in front of the most power white men in the country and demanded her right to vote. Demanded her right to be treated as a human being.
And let us make no mistake. There is no President Obama without the 1972 Presidential Campaign of Shirley Chisholm. The first black person to hold a major party candidacy on the Democratic ticket who just four years prior in 1968 became the first black woman elected to Congress.
It is so important that we know these women, read their work, and value their contributions daily.
Celebratory months are a beautiful thing. Yet, we should never be so complacent as to believe that one month a year is sufficient when recognizing the significance of Black women. People exist year round. Take the time to learn about them.
I applaud all of those who helped create a meaningful Black History Month this year that focused on the lives of Black women. The real challenge will be how we continue to respect and honor those narratives tomorrow, next week, next month, and all year round. How will you honor Black women on an everyday basis?
Joshua Daniel Phillips
PhD Student, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Author, 1,800 Miles: Striving to End Sexual Violence, One Step at a Time