Lamont Jack Pearley
Today is the first day of the celebration of Black History Month. So much is going on in the world right now. From Trump, to Trump, to Mexico, to Russia, to African Americans on edge because the fear of another Jim Crow era in on the brink. I personally celebrate Black History every month….that’s my job…however, if never before now is truly the time to really take a step toward the celebration and preservation of our heritage and traditions, making this season of Black History celebration more crucial.
As the world, this country moves forward, change is inevitable. But that’s not the change that worries me, or many of my fellow folklorists and historians. What is of grave concern to me is the change of history, the change of past documented experiences. Rewriting the story of a people…and in my case, my people. Now, the Black community is in one way used to this, unconsciously of course. That stems from Hollywood and it’s depiction of Moses, Jesus/Yeshua, Cleopatra etc. As well as in music, the Beatles, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Elvis, Eminem…the list goes on. So this programming is ongoing. However, there is a new change in story that’s been festering for some tine.
The immigration politics of our campaigning Presidential hopefuls and now the entire country seem to be the popular conversation every time camera is in their face. You know….Mexico, the borders, the thug drug dealing criminal , refugees and the animal blacks that kill each other. The never ending conflict of the Confederate flag, and the blatant racial discrimination of the Justice system toward African Americans that is still going on.
As we all know, the Blues, the Ol Negro Spirituals and the Work songs all depicted the life of “Slavery”, of injustice, social inequality and financial poverty, as well as a laments and hope for a better day. Jim Crow and Prison plantations were also a topic of songs by greats like Lead Belly, Son House and Bukka White to name a few. These are all aural documents of the Black experience in American that, no matter what, can’t be erased….yet here we are discussing a text book for a curriculum in Texas that explains the middle passage as, “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”
Are you kidding me?? Wait, it gets worse…
Now, as you see, the original form of music that was brought here during the middle passage, the songs that are to be passed down for generations as our ancestors did prior to the slave trade has been disrupted. There was a time where something like this couldn’t happen because from the songs to our great great grandparents and grandparents would have told us what was happening from the beginning. But now that music, Pop Music, mainstream music has taking such a turn, now that appropriation and the goal of monopolizing radio has finally changed music for the benefit of the machine, there are some people who would’ve unfortunately let this slide.
Also the replacing of the face of our traditional music. I hear this in debates and discussions all the time, “there’s no black and white…there’s just Blues”! LOL, yeah…just like Aaron in the movie the ten commandments don’t look like his descendants from the Igbo Tribe that currently resides in Africa.
We all remember the young man Coby Burren and his mother Roni Dean-Burren, a University of Houston doctoral student, who in Texas, faced a blatant attempt to rewrite our story by McGraw-Hill. She wrote an open letter…here’s an excerpt —
An Excerpt of the piece–
Were my African ancestors, who were stolen at gunpoint from their homes and families, dragged in chains into the dark and crowded cargo hulls of ships for the often-fatal Middle Passage, and brutalized, beaten, and forced into chattel slavery for generations, just like many of the other “immigrants” who came to America in order to “work”? Fifteen-year-old Pearland, Texas student Coby Burren didn’t think so when he saw this map caption in his World Geography textbook in the section on “Patterns of Immigration”:
About 150,000 other Texas high school students received the same textbook in their history classes this year, and many of them may have mistaken that caption for truth. Coby knew it was wrong and texted his mother a picture to show her what he was being “taught.”
You can find the article I’m referring to here.
After this incident, we haven’t heard much about that school, that text book and the continuos change in our story…..
or have we?
Being a huge fan of Gil Noble and Dr. Joy DeGruy, in my studies I usually refer to one of them…and low and behold, I came across an episode where she discusses visiting the Statue of Liberty. As I attempted to channel my anger, I commenced post the interview on Facebook and via my Twitter. What she revealed was the information given during the tour was not inclusive of African American…but what was worse, we…our ancestors are referred to as Non Voluntary Immigrants!!!
Non Black, those who consider themselves Non African American or not a Negro, for the most part will never understand why that is the epitome of insults. For many reasons.
Let’s start with the fact the entire world is protesting and marching for feminism and refugees…marching to remove Trump and are anti the Great Wall of Mexico…descendants of Slaves and Jim Crow, who run to everyones aide, are not only being ignored…we’re being told with the rest of the world that…like “Actual” immigrants, we were not prisoners of war…and yet had a “choice” in our treatment and desires to be here.
Well what does that do, that diminishes the concept that We are to get reparations, like the Jewish people, or the Japanese. The debunks the “theory” that there’s a system that has been contrived for our social, legal and financial downfall. That allows for the constant rhetoric spewed but right wing nuts that Black folk are lazy and just live off of the system.
Worst of all, that further removes the descendants of the of a great nation from who they truly are. And in that removal, it takes away from what are traditions are, who we prayed to and why, what our relationship to our God and each other truly are. And I find a huge problem in that.
So I say, let’s not just celebrate by parties and dance events..but celebrate and preserve by sharing and edifying. The more the story changes, the more we have to work to dig, research and live it!
Stay tuned for the repatriation project that I’ll be working on with Association For Cultural Equity .