Your history is still around you.

Periodically, I’ll run across a quotation that speaks to Black Wide-Awake‘s purpose. Yesterday, I found it in the words of Dorothy Thompson Bolden, co-founder of the National Domestic Workers Union of America, in a 1995 interview for Georgia State University’s Voices of Labor Oral History Project:

“If you think about it, and you live here and think about it at home when you’re in the bed, that your history is still around you, it don’t go nowhere. People may try to get rid of it, but it never gets out of you, and people don’t realize that. If we go back now and study some of these peoples, and look at it and listen to them talk, we can tell you a great deal …”  


At the beginning of Black History Month, the New York Times published an essay, “Everyday Excellence,” in its Style Section. Though the piece centers the black folk we see in the now, everyday, in an edited form Rembert Browne’s text sets out the raison d’être for Black Wide-Awake and stands as a convenient coda to February:

“As a child, I learned during our shortest month about Martin and Malcolm, Harriet and Sojourner. At home and in school they told of Benjamin Banneker’s almanacs, Madam C.J. Walker’s hair products and subsequent wealth, George Washington Carver’s peanuts, Crispus Attucks’s heroism in dying first, and even what Dr. Ben Carson did with those conjoined twins.

“Black History Month has taken these mortals from heroes to idols, out of both pride and desperation. The resulting highlight reel of black triumph is pure historiography, a particular formulation of the story of black America. Its chronology supports the misleading narrative that a few exceptional people and their acts are the de facto history of black America, rendering the stories of the ordinary as invisible.

“If your life is filled with these ordinary black people, however, you understand what the true meaning of Black History Month is. What truly pushes black America forward are all the people in between, all the people you don’t see if you don’t know where to look, or simply don’t care. But if these circles are part of your life — either through inheritance, or by showing up and seeking them out — your entire world opens up. Every day is overwhelmingly Black History Month, because it’s all around you. …”


Back to our regularly scheduled programming, i.e. Black History all year long.