Jack Varnell suggests we all look a little bit deeper as we celebrate Black History Month.
Most media outlets have a rather passive and, frankly, anemic way of presenting Black History Month each and every year. It feels to me to be a rather rote, and almost passe obligation and opportunity to meet a politically correct agenda to increase viewer and readership from yet another segmented demographic which may or not be in their fold already. I’m sure it also serves as a way to offer editorial advertising to another set of potential advertisers as well.
Please don’t misunderstand that I am grateful that our culture is being exposed to the incredible accomplishments and contributions made by Black Americans to our way of life. George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have given us so much. I just want us to learn to dig a little deeper than the rhetoric. We are all Americans.
I have a poem I wrote, and that is published here in The Good Men Project called, “Facing Mecca”.
The overall theme of the poem is about my personal experience of being the rebellious white kid who escaped the mean streets of the suburbs to spend a lot of time with my black friends. There is a line about my mother , growing up in an environment that made her feel guilty for loving the music of Little Richard. In our recent posts about the importance and impact on music in our youth I’ve been thinking about being that kid –that white kid, extremely jealous of the voice of the Al Greens and the moves of the Little Michael Jackson’s as I sat on Saturday afternoons watching “Soul Train”. I’ll never forget the smoothin’ and groovin’ honey voice of the incomparable Don Cornelius.
What I remember most was not having to feel guilty. I was growing up in a time that made it a little more okay. Even my older cousins, aunts, and uncles had begun using the word “niggra” in a half hearted attempt to change their vernacular and move forward. I hear one of those cousins is now married to a Black man.
So lets try a new approach. Lets celebrate Black History Month a little differently and recognize the sheer genius, cultural significance, and forward thinking of men and women like Don Cornelius. Those proud, strong and unshakeable folks with the courage to believe they could change business, entertainment, and more importantly American culture by acting on the faith that by bringing Motown and the Black American Bandstand into the living rooms of America. Into a lot more Caucasian homes than would have said so at the time. It was time. The war, politics, and the rapid changes coming for us all dictated it. Thank you Don Cornelius for being there when we needed you, and knowing when the time was right. Rest in Peace .
Do yourself a favor and take a minute to celebrate Black History with Don Cornelius, and another legend who helped to form our present.
The Washington Post has an excellent story and bio about the life and work of Don Cornelius.
Please check it out. Or Shaft may have to come and kick your …shut your mouth…