Black Poetry : Does Black History Month Mean as much as it Once Did?

History is Calling

When I woke up this morning, my alarm clock went off and I lay there in the dark listening to its ring. I thought about Benjamin Banneker, a black man, who in 1754 invented that first clock in America as I sat up in bed. I switched on the lamp and it startled my eyes but it made me recall that when Thomas Edison threw his switch in Menlo Park, New Jersey, his lightbulb could only burn six minutes. It took Lewis Lattimer, a black man, to invent that tungsten filament for the long burn we have today. Because of these two black men, America doesn't wake up late or in the dark.
Then I went to the shower and turned on the hot and cold running water. Immediately I thought of how my ancestors along the Nile River in Egypt, in Africa, had hot and cold running water centuries ago. So this was nothing new! When I finished, I felt how warm it was in the house and thought about the fact that a black man named J. Standard invented the first oil heater in this country and a black woman named Sarah Parker invented the first gas furnace heater here too, testifying that Black creativity not only built America and lit up America but warmed it too.
I opened the dryer door for some clothes and it flashed that George Sampson, a black man in 1892, invented the first clothes dryer in America as I scooped warm shirts and stuff into my basket with a smile. When I pulled out the ironing board to press the pants, I said thank God for Sarah Boone, a black woman, who invented this ironing board I’m using today. I realized my History was all around and I couldn't get away from it even if I wanted to. Then I put on my shoes and could almost see brother Jan Matzeliger, a black man in Boston, inventing that machine in 1863 that sewed the upper part of a shoe to the lower part as I tied up the laces of my new Bostonians. How fascinating that one black man's creative thought keeps everybody from going barefoot with blisters.
I felt hungry and went to the kitchen for some food. I opened the refrigerator door and the blast of cold in my face reminded me of T. Elkins, a black man, who invented this refrigeration apparatus that prevents food from spoiling as I took a carton of milk from the rack. And I couldn't forget that before him, a black man named Frederick McKinley Jones had invented such an apparatus in 1949 to be used on trucks and trains that rumble across America, bringing food from one point to another without perishing. History was calling me and I hadn't even left the house. I poured the milk over my cornflakes and sprinkled sugar to sweeten it. As the crystals fell, I thought of brother Norbert Rillieux, a black man, who in 1846 had taken the juice of the sugar cane and converted it into those very crystal grains now falling. Domino and Dixie Crystals ought to be thankful to brother Norbert Rillieux. So, where is their erected statue for his work?
I then wanted some biscuits. When I took out the biscuit cutter, I said "Here we are again." sister A.P. Ashborn, a black woman, had invented a biscuit cutting machine for all the kitchens cooking good eats in America. I fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Dr. George Washington Carver came to mind, remembering that he invented over 300 products from the peanut as I spread the Jiffy over the bread. Next, I put the sandwich in a paper bag. Once more I had to say "Here we are again." A black man named W. B. Purvis invented a machine to mass produce paper bags not only for our home use but also for industry too.
I put on my coat and walked into the brisk morning cold. I'm sure it was also cold for brother Matthew Henson, a black man, who arrived at the North Pole 45 minutes before Admiral Perry but not as cold as the educational system that left him out of the History books. Then, while driving my car, I came upon a stoplight and said "Here we are again." Garrett A. Morgan, a black man, invented the stoplight in this land of America thus enabling the control of traffic flow with red, green and yellow. I then crossed railroad tracks and thought about Granville T. Woods, a black man, who invented a machine to get messages from one train to another to cut down on the many railroad accidents. America owes a debt of gratitude to Granville T. Woods. After I crossed the tracks, I had to stop at a bridge and said "There we are again” because H.H. Reynolds, a black man, had invented the safety gate now holding back the traffic from the open bridge as the boats sailed under.

When I reached my bank, I walked into the building and on the wall I saw a fire extinguisher and thought that if it wasn't for Thomas Martin, a black man inventing it, this place could burn down and no one would know how to put the fire out! I reached for my pen to sign my check and who should come to mind but W.B. Purvis again, a black man, who invented the first fountain pen here in America. I realized that I was holding my History in my hand and that all day it seemed that History was calling me to wake up. I heard it calling from Ethiopia. I heard it calling from the Nile valley in Egypt, Africa. And when brother Dr. Carter G. Woodson, born in New Canton, Virginia heard it in 1926, he started fighting for a Negro History day and then a Black History week and finally we got a Black History month in February. And isn't it peculiar that we celebrate the people with the longest history for the shortest month and interrupt it for Valentine's Day
which is not part of our history and forget that February 14th is Frederick Douglas's birthday which is part of our history.
I realized that History was refocusing my sight upon the momentous contributions that every civilized nation owes to this power of Black thought. No man, no house and no nation stands on solid ground without paying homage to the foundation which supports it because History develops the springs and motives of human action enabling us to not only see what was and what is but also to envision what can be. We have inherited a divine legacy and it testifies that we were designed for accomplishment, engineered for success and endowed with a seed of greatness dropped in by the Almighty for good measure.
One day you may hear a distant bell waking you. You may even hear a far off drum beat beckoning you. Don't worry ! It's only History calling long distance and telling you to wake up to this great future which marches towards tomorrow on the shoulders of an unforgettable past. I'll never forget it. What about you reading this? HH
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O, Brother HH, like you, I've heard the call of the drumbeat...and the echo of long ago weeps. I've lived the rise of the African's pride...and know the story of our people. There was a call for a day...a week...and then a month. WHY DID WE STOP THE CALL? Why are we still limited to that month, in which we're all lumped? And why are our children losing interest in those twenty eight days...and ALL the GREAT LIVES gave...that make up our history tree? Like you, i'll never forget that. but as our children grow farther and farther away from our February month, will they not soon forget? Have you asked a young one, "Who is Dr. Carter G. Woodson?" Of course, they know who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is, but do they know who Medgar Evers is? Two generations forward, will we only have a handful who know the names you've mentioned?


Does Black History Month mean as much, today, as it did yesterday?
rhymebad, I agree that slavery should never have happened, but i'm not talking about eliminating black history month, i'm talking about expanding it. I think black history should be a required course in our schools, from grade school...on. I think American history books should be rewritten, to tell the truth. I think black people should be acknowledged for their accomplishments...instead of decried for what the media intensely tries to convey to the world.

THANKS for stopping by, rhymebad.


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