Monthly Archives: February 2014

Paige Academy: “February is Black History Month. This Year’s Theme is Civil Rights in America”

Via Paige Academy:

“Black History Month remains an important moment for America to celebrate the achievements and contributions black Americans have played in U.S. history. Arising out of “Negro History Week,” which first began in the 1920s, February has since been designated as Black History Month by every U.S. president since 1976.”

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Commentary on Why We Still Need Black History Month

Cultural critics, sociologists, journalists, and educators continue to marginalize black achievement  BY JEFF GERRITT

DEPUTY BLADE EDITOR

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Officially recognized by the U.S. government in 1976, Black History Month reboots a debate over whether the nation still needs a designated time to honor the contributions of African-Americans to U.S. culture and history.

Some critics, including African-Americans such as actor Morgan Freeman, argue that black history is American history and shouldn’t be relegated to one month. Others who consider the annual observance unnecessary cite the progress African-Americans have made toward equality over the past 60 years.

Even on that basis, however, the critics are wrong. Moves toward equality, although impressive, have been terribly uneven. The nation has its first African-American president, but it also has nearly 1 million black men in prison – more than were enslaved in the antebellum South – and millions more in poverty.

That said, I don’t want to make the debate over social, political, and economic progress – important as it is – the central question here. The African-American experience is far more than the failures of this country to live up to its creeds and Constitution.

Even today, cultural critics, sociologists, journalists, and educators – whether in the classroom or on the nightly news – continue to frame the African-American experience largely in terms of pathology and deprivation. That marginalizes black achievement while advancing a legitimate debate over how far the nation needs to go to fulfill the dream of racial equality.

In his 1970 book The Omni Americans, African-American critic and novelist Albert Murray argued that black people couldn’t afford to be reduced to oppression and repression, even though he was vividly aware of their social, economic, and political plight and the need to change it. More than 40 years later, most Americans – especially white Americans – still don’t understand or appreciate the positive contributions of African-Americans, or how much their cultural achievements, struggles, fortitude, history, and even style have shaped the national narrative.

Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and for that matter, saxophonist John Coltrane and singer Billie Holiday are as important to this nation’s identity as the Founding Fathers, maybe more so. So too are the impressive array of African-American writers – Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, and many others – who transformed American literature by drawing as much from the blues and jazz idioms as they did from the European literary tradition.

Mr. Coltrane and Ms. Holiday, as well as countless other jazz and blues musicians, helped create and shape America’s greatest contribution to world culture in the 20th century. Black freedom fighters such as Mr. Douglass were, at their core, American patriots, struggling to make the U.S. Constitution whole.

These pioneers, and countless others, were uniquely American – self-made Yankee Doodle Dandies – who couldn’t have sprung from any other country in the world, despite its flaws and failures.

Fortunately, younger people today hold a more affirmative view of the African-American experience than their elders. Like most other Americans, they may lack a sophisticated understanding of history. But they grew up in a popular culture that African-Americans have dominated – or at least influenced in large measure – especially in music.

The popular art of hip-hop, for example, has influenced an entire generation of Americans. White rappers have contributed to this American popular art form, but the best of them have approached the music with a reverence for the culture that created it, just as the most skilled white jazz musicians have done for generations with another musical genre.

In 1926, black historian Carter Woodson helped launch what was then called “Negro History Week” during the second week of February, marking the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1969, black students at Kent State University proposed expanding the week to a month, and Kent State first celebrated Black History Month in February, 1970.

Mr. Woodson believed that African-Americans needed to understand their history and traditions to survive as a people, but understanding that history is important to all Americans, not just black Americans. Without that understanding, white people cannot really know what it means to be an American.

African-American history is, as Mr. Freeman has stated, American history. But until most Americans regard it as such in a full and reverent way, they will need a month to learn from it – even if it’s the shortest month of the year.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/JeffGerritt/2014/02/09/Why-we-still-need-Black-History-Month-1.html#ZuIdpP3kFEr3tPMu.99

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Valentine’s Day – A Reminder that Healthy, Respectful, and Non-Violent Love Exists and Should be Positively Promoted

“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?” – Gandhi (To the Women of India on October 4, 1930).

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Although the Valentine’s Day our society knows very well is full of candy hearts, chocolate, Hallmark cards, love songs, and dinner dates, this day can also serve as a reminder that every single person deserves to be loved in a respectful, healthy, and empowering way – without the threat of violence. It is an injustice to all to be treated otherwise and to be in an relationship or marriage that is destructive, toxic, abusive, and disempowering. Let this day be full of happiness, delicious sweets, and promoting a love that every human deserves to have.

Healthy, respectful, and empowering love is what this holiday can positively remind us all of.

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I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” – Charlotte Bronte

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”  – Toni Morrison

Haley House Updates – Art is Life Itself

Haley House Updates - Art is Life Itself

Thursdays from 7:00-10:00pm Haley House offers family-friendly evenings filled with music, readings, film screenings, and open-mic time. Bring your friends and come early for a delicious dinner and the best seats!

Learn more information here: http://www.haleyhouse.org/calendar

Calling All Men: On March 6, 2014, Take the Pledge. Wear the Ribbon.

Calling All Men: On March 6, 2014, Take the Pledge. Wear the Ribbon.

Be a part of the solution. Take the pledge. Wear the ribbon.

Become a White Ribbon Day Ambassador. Help spread the word about this campaign to other men and boys in your lives. Hold an event in your community. Arrange for a presentation in your workplace. Organize your classmates or fellow athletes at school.

On March 6th a public Governor’s Proclamation event will take place at the State House along with other activities throughout the Commonwealth to recognize the leadership and commitment of men to make a difference.

To learn more information, visit: Janedoe.org/whiteribbonday

The 50th Anniversary of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique”

“For an honest, soul-searching picture of what we have become, be candid, elaborate where the spirit moves you,” urges the first line of the survey Friedan distributed to members of her college class at their 15-year reunion. The survey, along with some revealing responses, is contained in the show’s first glass case. Under the “marriage” heading in her comprehensive poll, Friedan included questions like: “Is it truly satisfying?” and “How does it compare with your expectations of marriage?” On Friedan’s own survey next to the question “To what extent do you talk to your husband about your deepest feelings?” she wrote: “Only after an emotional crisis or rift.”

Friedan pitched an article based on her findings to several magazines, but when the editors balked, she changed course and spent the next several years turning her research into a book.

Peace Drum Project Update

Peace Drum Project Update

What is The Peace Drum Project?

“Designed to provide Boston teens with quality after-school arts programming and leadership training, The Peace Drum Project helps teens from different backgrounds, schools, and neighborhoods develop artistic, problem solving and critical thinking skills together. Each year, twenty Boston teens (ages 13-18) develop positive relationships with youth, while they gain mastery of a variety of performing and visual arts skills that help them tell their own stories. Through workshops given by project staff-artists and guest artists, the teens explore: acting, storytelling, drum making and playing, bookmaking, journals, banner-making and other forms of expression. Through these art making activities, the teens develop new tools for expressing their feelings, ideas and experiences in positive and meaningful ways.

The Peace Drum Project is also an arts-based community service project bringing teen participants together with senior citizens from the same Boston neighborhoods to help them tell their stories to the larger community. The teens and elders work together to learn about each other, and to create Peace Drums, which are visual stories about their own lives. Each spring, the drums, books and other creations from the project are exhibited in the community to bring families, the teens, the elders and others together to celebrate their stories and their creativity, and to build bridges across the generations.”

Learn more by visiting their website: http://www.tribal-rhythms.org/drum_descr.html

Globe Readers and Non-profits Together

We’re very excited for Boston Globe’s new Voucher program, called GRANT (Globe Readers and Non-profits Together). Through February the Globe will be sending vouchers out to subscribers (paper=$100, online=$50), they write the name of the charity they want to designate it to and send it back to the Globe who will then bank the vouchers. The money is then available for non-profits to buy ad space with. Completed vouchers are due back to the Globe by March 1st!

To learn more information and how you can donate to a charity/non-profit of your choice, visit: https://services.bostonglobe.com/grant/default.aspx

Subscribe to Boston Globe here

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