Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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EDITORIAL: What Black History Month Means to GBN in 2023 and Beyond

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by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN founder and Editor-in-Chief

Well, here we are, once again. Forty seven years after February was officially recognized by the U.S. government as Black History Month, and ninety seven years after Negro History Week was founded by Carter G. Woodson, “The Father of Black History.”

We are also, once again, deeply distressed by the murder of a young Black person (Tyre Nichols) at the hands of police officers. The fact that the officers and the police chief are Black this time around doesn’t complicate but instead amplifies the grotesque, stark, ironically colorblind reality of systemic racism — it is a pernicious construct of power and oppression that can be upheld or enforced by anyone of any color or gender or creed.

So, how do we reconcile the two — the celebration of Black people and their achievements while constantly experiencing injustice, inequity and increasingly, erasure?

If you think “erasure” is a hyperbolic, overused buzzword, please check out this PBS piece, this ACLU podcast or get your up-to-date Critical Race Theory ban statuses state by state on World Population Review. You can also Google what the governor of Florida is up to these days in regards to one particular course offered in the AP curriculum. and the AP’s seeming capitulatory response.

As Editor-in-Chief of Good Black News, a site which for over a decade has literally been dedicated year-round to the celebration of Black people and their achievements, I have been wrestling with this question for a while, particularly in the last eight months.

After the murder of 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY by a white supremacist in May 2022 and the continued downplaying of racially-based domestic terrorism, I felt depleted and bereft. Of hope, of faith, of purpose. It didn’t seem to matter how much Black people achieved or prospered or protested or suffered in America — we couldn’t even buy our groceries in peace.

And once again, the narrative of the “lone, mentally unstable shooter” was trotted out. One person was (rightfully) punished, but the racist political and economic system he embraced in its most violent extreme? It remained (and remains) steadfastly in place. As did the onus remain on the shoulders of Black people to be seen as worthy of basic human rights.

America quickly got back to the business of forgetting and moving on, even after experiencing only two years before what seemed like a watershed moment of racial reckoning after the police murder of George Floyd.

But here were are again today, literally TODAY, with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump saying during his call to action during Tyre Nichols’ funeral: “Why couldn’t they see the humanity in Tyre?… We have to make sure they see us as human beings worthy of respect and justice!”

We do?

I’ll admit in many ways, I understand where Crump is coming from. “Show the humanity” has essentially been the GBN operating philosophy since 2010 — to create a site and space where we can see and celebrate our humanity, while offering access to anyone else who wants to take a gander.

But now, in 2023, I must push myself to dig deeper and firmly challenge why it should it ever be the responsibility of any human being to convince any other human being of their humanity. To state the obvious, once, and for all:

BLACK PEOPLE ARE HUMAN BEINGS.

If the words above are not inherently understood to be true, why is that? Why does this have to be shown? Proven? Over and over and over again?

My answer, also obvious, is that they don’t. Not ever.

So, while I absolutely respect and still intend to celebrate the legacies of people such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Sidney Poitier and the like, going forward I also need for GBN’s Black History Month and GBN in general to engage more actively in the interrogation and disempowering any systems, institutions or public policies that do not recognize or uphold this truth and all the basic rights that should flow from it (e.g. respect, freedom, safety, equality).

Maybe I’m not giving enough credit to GBN in its past and present form — I acknowledge that GBN has been helpful and appreciated by many for the way we offer information via the lens of celebration and positivity.

What I’m aiming to add to our existing ethos is more critical thinking and opinion about cultural topics and cultural content, boosting political, economic and social policies that are truly about protecting, serving and uplifting Black people, and working to upend those that don’t.

What will this “new GBN” look like, you might ask? Well, today it’s looking like me sharing this link to the NAACP Petition to Demand Educational Freedom in Florida. To quote the petition:

The College Board creates and administers the AP program. Join us in demanding that they:

  • Reject the narrow interpretation of Florida law that contradicts principles of academic freedom and autonomy in determining what to teach in classrooms.
  • Take swift action to make sure Florida does not modify the curriculum of the proposed AP African-American Studies course designed with the help of respected Black scholars, but rather, maintains the integrity of the proposed curriculum.

Florida’s current agenda of political interference in the AP African American studies curriculum directly conflicts with the values of equity, fairness, and justice. Our students deserve better.

To sign it, click here.

Additionally, I want to highlight Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project series now streaming on Hulu as well as promote the excellent “Intersectionality Matters” podcast by law professor Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw whose name is among the writers expunged from the AP African American studies curriculum.

Open in Spotify

I also want to give props to Beyoncé for officially announcing her 2023 Renaissance World Tour!  A definite bright spot on this first day of Black History Month, the efforts Beyoncé and her team are making via the Verified Fan system and its tiers of engagement (first priority given to the BeyHive!) to ensure real fans get access to tickets over usurious resale entities is for sure worth a shout out.

Frankly, I am tired of us being caught out there, and I want GBN to do more, offer more, share more and speak out more. In our tweets, reels, stories, posts, playlists, comments — however.

Maybe I’ll get it wrong sometimes, but with deep love for this community as my true north, may my faith, purpose and hope never again be broken.

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