Every February America rolls up its collective sleeves to honor the contributions and history of our ancestors. Since its inception by Cater G. Woodson, Black History month has continued to shine a spotlight on some of our heros who sadly go unnoticed, but a new film asks if we should get rid of it all together.
In the film More Than A Month, Shukree Hassan Tilghman travels across the U.S. on his quest to end Black History Month. While it sounds like a radical idea, Tilghman argues that by keeping Black History Month around we reenforce the notion that our history is somehow not American history.
Recently, Tilghman sat down with the Root to discuss his film and why he wants to do away with Black History Month.
Check out an excerpt from the interview.
The Root: What has been your own experience with Black History Month?
Shukree Hassan Tilghman: I loved Black History Month growing up. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started to look around and [see] Heineken’s “Celebrate Black History Month” ad on the bus. Like, all right, maybe that’s cool, but in a certain way I felt that the continued existence of Black History Month was being condescended to in a certain way. That maybe the month was contributing to a perception that the history wasn’t American or somehow not as important as some other American history. That’s when I started questioning.
TR: What do you think it means that it’s 2012 and we’re still celebrating Black History Month?
SHT: I think it means that we’ve let ourselves off the hook a little, especially as African Americans. We’ve allowed a situation to continue where we know there’s a lack of teaching of African-American history. Not for every school district, of course, but generally speaking, we know there is a lack of this history, but we’ve allowed Black History Month to be a sort of Band-Aid.
We should question what that means now. I think it also means that the celebration of black history at any given time is important to people, or [the month] wouldn’t still be around. I think it can actually be two things at once, whether one agrees with my previous statement or not.
TR: Why do you think the idea of ending it is so controversial?
SHT: There is a lot of attachment to Black History Month. I think it causes a strong reaction. At a time when people thought we had no history at all, that there was nothing to talk about, nothing worth writing down … out of that comes Negro History Week. Then it [becomes] Black History Month.
So there’s a lot of emotion, and there’s a lot of valid reasons to feel an attachment to Black History Month for what it is. I would just like to say that [ending] Black History Month is not counter to that mission; it’s just a continuation of the same struggle.
What do you think…do we still need Black History Month?