End Black History Month
When I got the preview DVD for “More Than a Month,” the first thought in my mind was “This Shukree Tilghman just wants to start an argument and get some attention. Yeah, Shukree’s got the down and relevant name; but he’s also in that generation that’s reaped the benefits of the struggle. He doesn’t appreciate the history behind the history of Black History Month.”
Well, I was wrong. And I took the bait. But I hung in there. And look at me now. I just used the same strategy on this blog. Baiting the reader in with anger and controversy. It sells. But if you’ve gotten this far, you may not be the one who will judge this documentary by its promotion. And I’m not sure if “spoiler alert” applies.
“More Than a Month” is a very thoughtful documentary from the perspective of a filmmaker who was not born during the Civil Rights movement or got the first copies of Survey Graphic’s “New Negro” special edition hot off the press. “More Than a Month” poses the question with some context about Black History Month without coming to a definitive conclusion. And that’s okay. The final word may be “both/and.” The title says it all – key word MORE. For Shukree the question is when will the history of the African American experience be American history.
When Shukree came to town to screen the documentary at National Geographic this week (he’ll be back February 26 – see info below) I asked him if the “bait and switch” promotion may be doing the film a disservice in getting the message out and losing audience as a result.
Maybe they like that image of Shukree wearing the “End Black History Month” sandwich board. Or not. Both/and. There’s a lot of push back when you come out strong with “End Black History Month.” People go into fight mode and that’s humorously enacted in the documentary. There may be audience dismissing the film altogether. Identity issues are very sensitive issues. “Who tells who’s history” is part of a broader power struggle, and Shukree gives some thought to that as well. But for the brave souls who’ve shown up at the previews, they’ve given “More Than a Month” an enthusiastic thumbs up. Some still question; some ponder the questions. A few still point out what the film doesn’t say. But word-of-mouth is going to be the ticket; not the sandwich board.
Of course, I’m in Washington, DC the birthplace of Negro History week that became Black History Month thanks to the work of Carter G. Woodson whose home on 9th Street near the Shiloh Baptist Church is a national landmark. “More Than a Month” gives Woodson his due for a new generation – praise but let’s not get too serious. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization that was originally founded by Woodson looks forward to having his home become a museum. The National Park Service is holding the required community meeting 6 PM, February 22, three days before the ASALH annual Black History Month luncheon, four days before Shukree takes the stage again to discuss “More Than a Month.” The museum status is still up for discussion as is Black History Month.
Somehow it becomes apparent that without Carter G. Woodson’s effort to bring black history into the fold of American history and emphasize its value, there probably wouldn’t be commemorative months for women, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Poets, Asian and Pacific Islanders, jazz music. We may all stand on Woodson’s shoulders. I imagine it would be history as usual told from a single perspective. As one parent noted in the film, how can mommy compete with a text book? I had this experience in grade school when I told my father all Black people were slaves before emancipation and he said “Not in my family.” I didn’t believe him. I found out, years later and through the “proper channels” dad was right about his lineage that included “free people of color” and others. Those stories rarely make it into a public school textbook. Woodson’s story and motivation may be similar to his contemporary Arturo Alfonso Schomburg who faced the same resistance in his native Puerto Rico to lifting up the contributions and value of peoples of African decent to the world. He too started a collection which became the foundation for what is now the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
This week PBS’s Newshour aired this segment titled “Why Not Everyone Supports Black History Month?” Aside from the awkward title phrasing (okay, leave it alone), again, the Newshour uses the bait and switches up with a good discussion with people like Angela Davis, “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” filmmaker Sharon La Cruise, Hip Hop artist Talib Kweli, and, of course, Shukree Hassan Tilghman.
If you’ve come this far in the post, then you’re ready to take the next step. If you’re in the DC area, come out to one of the FREE public ITVS Community Cinema screenings of MORE THAN A MONTH and meet Shukree Hassan Tilghman:
Sunday, February 26 at 12:30 PM, Shukree will be the guest for “Coffee and Conversation” at the Washington, DC Jewish Community Center (1529 16th Street, NW) followed by a screening in Theater J, the main theater and a Q&A with E. Ethelbert Miller (aka E-bert), poet, literary activist and director of Howard University’s Afro-American Studies Research Center. RSVP requested. Eventbrite link.
And at 5 PM on February 26 WHUT Howard University Television (2222 Fourth Street, NW) hosts the final Community Cinema event followed by a Q&A with Shukree Tilghman and Jacquie Jones, executive director of the National Black Programming Consortium. RSVP by Eventbrite or call 202-806-3200.
And btw, WHUT is broadcasting “More Than a Month” (“Independent Lens” series) Saturday, March 17 at 8 PM; Tuesday, March 20 at 10 PM. (Check local listings) More screenings are being planned for March in Maryland.
Anyone who knows me know I’m not a sports fan in the sense of spending Sundays glued to the tube, checking stats or scores unless it’s a championship final. I do get into the culture and theatrical elements of the game. Sunday, I attended my first baseball game in many moons at Nationals stadium. The Washington Nationals lost to the San Francisco Giants miserably. But game outcome did have any effect on my enjoyment of the ambiance and ballpark food. My Ben’s Chili Bowl hot dog and beer really hit the spot. The debate still continues or what was lost and gained for DC residents in bringing major league baseball back to the city with taxpayer money. But I have to say, that Nationals Stadium sure is real pretty!
My field trip was all in preparation for a project I’m working on with WHUT-TV Howard University Television — to collect Washington, DC baseball stories for an oral history to be included in Howard University’s American Archive repository. I’ve got my Zora hat on (photo: Zora Neale Hurston in NC at football game – credit Alex Rivera). I’m learning DC has a very unique baseball history (Negro Leagues, college and little leagues, the majors, the hearings) that’s had an impact on baseball as we know it today. But the only way to find out is to ask around.
WHUT’s oral history project is one of the outreach activities leading up to the WHUT broadcast of The Tenth Inning, Ken Burns’ follow up to the 9 inning/partBaseball series that aired on PBS in 1994. In other words, The Tenth Inning picks up where BASEBALL left off.
But for Washington, DC, our tenth inning marks a new beginning for baseball. How did we get here? You tell us. Bring your baseball story…
- Thursday, July 15 from 4 – 6 PM at the BatterUp Foundation/RBI event – Banneker Field (Georgia Ave. across from Howard University), or
- Saturday, July 31 from 10 AM to 1 PM, WHUT studios (email email@example.com or call 202-806-3059)
Community Cinema, the ITVS outreach initiative for the PBS series, “Independent Lens,” is presenting [FREE] community screenings and discussions of the documentary TULIA, TEXAS. Community Cinema holds monthly preview screenings across the country to encourage community dialogue on social issues and opportunities to get involved with local organizations and institutions.
ABOUT TULIA, TEXAS: A product of the nation’s “war on drugs,” narcotics agent Tom Coleman was hired to work undercover in a now-infamous drug sting operation in Tulia, Texas. On July 23, 1999, Coleman executed one of the biggest drug busts in Texas history; by the end of that blazing summer day, dozens of residents of the small farming town of Tulia had been rounded up and thrown behind bars. Thirty-nine of the 46 people accused of selling drugs to Coleman were African American. Directed by Cassandra Herrman and Kelly Whalen, TULIA, TEXAS will have its television premiere on the Emmy® Award–winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard, in February, 2009 (check local listings).
The Washington, DC Community Cinema screenings are…
Sunday, January 4 at 4 PM, Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St., NW
presented as part of ACTOR (A Continuing Talk On Race)
Sunday, January 25 at 3 PM, Washington DCJCC, 1529 16th St., NW at Q
A panel will follow the screenings featuring attorney William E. White who helped lead the legal team that represented the 39 African American defendants; Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies Drug Policy Project; Naomi Long of the Drug Policy Alliance Network for the DC Metro area; and Kara Gotsch of The Sentencing Project (community partner for the TULIA, TEXAS DC screenings)
The screenings are FREE and open to the general public. To reserve for the DC screenings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WPFW-FM, D.C.’s Pacifica station, has been promoting the first screening in DC on its social justice calendar for the past several weeks. On Thursday, January 1 at 7 PM – that’s New Years Day – this blogger will be on “2K Nation,” WPFW’s teen public affairs program with Netfa Freeman, director of the Social Action and Leadership School for Activists (SALSA) to talk about the film and the Community Cinema series.
For screenings in other communities (over 50), visit www.pbs.org/independentlens/getinvolved.
For more information about DC’s Community Cinema, visit www.communitycinema-dc.org.
Today I read President-elect Barack Obama will take the Oath of Office January 20, 2009 using the Lincoln Bible. I’m not talking about a versioning of the bible with a Lincoln-like writing style, but the 16th President’s own bible in which he laid his hand when he took the Oath of Office in 1861. The bible is in the collections of the Library of Congress.
2009 is also the Bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.
This brings me to another Lincoln-themed event in January. WHUT (Howard University Television) is looking for 120 teachers to participate in their Looking For Lincoln Teacher Training Workshop Saturday, January 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the WHUT television studios (2222 Fourth Street, NW, Washington, DC). The workshop is FREE and includes lunch, giveaways, and a doorprize.
The workshop introduces the upcoming PBS broadcast of “Looking For Lincoln” as a classroom tool. The documentary is scheduled for national broadcast in February 2009.
“Looking For Lincoln” explores the life and legacy of the man widely considered one of our best and most enigmatic presidents. The documentary, hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (African American Lives, Oprah’s Roots), addresses many of the controversies surrounding Lincoln – race, equality, religion, politics, and depression – by carefully interpreting evidence from those who knew him and those who study him today. A companion book is also available.
The workshop includes:
- Keynote address by Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Lincoln expert and prominent member of Howard University Department of History.
- Overview of LOOKING FOR LINCOLN broadcast program and website.
- Hands-on lesson plan demonstration.
Registration is due January 16, 2009.
Is St. Paul, Minnesota gearing up for another Chicago ’68 or NYC ’04? During the weekend, members of the St. Paul and Ramsey County sheriff’s office conducted pre-convention raids on citizens supsected of anti-war protests during the Republican Convnention. Video and story are available on CommonDreams.org via Salon.com.
Apparently, these preemptive strikes haven’t deterred anti-war marchers who made their way from the Minnesota state capital to the Xcel Center today where the subdued day 1 of the RNC convention is taking place. Convention events have been delayed to monitor activities related to Hurricaine Gustav, now downgraded to a category 2 which has some New Orleaneans breathing a sigh of relief. Let’s see how the levees hold up with the rising water. Apparently, Gustav has given Bush/Cheney a hall pass from the convention, saving the candidate McCain from further public association, although in ’04 the public display of closeness produced a photo op (the hug) that might be a little difficult to shake off.
Chicago ’68 didn’t happen in Denver for all the anticipation by Rush chaos operators, PUMA, anarchists, and media hypos. Not that there weren’t any scuffles or run ins with police. CodePink has a video link to the Rocky Mountain News from day 1 of the DNC convention. That police person who hit the CodePink protester was removed from demonstration duty. [My grandfather, one of the biggest, baddest men in the county, had absolutely no respect for men who hit women.]
CodePink has been invited to report in this Thursday, September 4 @ 6:30 PM, when ITVS and WHUT present a free screening of the documentary CHICAGO 10 at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th St., NW). There’s a reservation request email: email@example.com. After the film there will be a community dialogue with activists from 1968 and 2008. Other Community Cinema screenings of CHICAGO 10 are happening in over 50 venues across the country during the months of September and October. Visit www.pbs.org/independentlens/getinvolved. CHICAGO 10 will broadcast on Independent Lens on PBS stations in October.