I believe Black history should be emphasized all year round, but this month does at least help to highlight unsung voices. Beyond the well-known names of Martin, Malcolm, Harriet, and Frederick are the grassroots activists like Ella Baker that laid the groundwork for the Montgomery Bus Boycotts or Fannie Lou Hamer who endured poverty, homelessness, and physical violence to spread the gospel of equality with her own unique brand of plain-spoken oration. Who is Bayard Rustin, and what was his contribution to the March on Washington? What part did Marsha P. Johnson play in the Stonewall uprising? Did you know the iconic Lone Ranger was based on the black lawman Bass Reeves? What about the iconic Betty Boop created in the 1930s, who was initially thought to be an homage to songstress Helen Kane? In fact, Kane copied her performance on an act appropriated from Esther Jones aka Baby Esther, headliner of the infamous speakeasy, the Cotton Club.
Winston Churchill once said “history will be kind to me for I intend to write it” which should serve as a reminder that we must dig deeper. Black History Month should inspire the brave to ask questions about our history. Black History Month is at least 28 days of the year that demand we not look away, to stare down our ill deeds along with, not to inspire shame but to learn to be better. We can do little to harm the dead with the truth, a comforting omission for the majority which erases the history of others serves no one.
-- William Wallace