BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Noting Those in Attendance

As February comes to an end, let us be mindful that learning and honoring our history is a year-round endeavor. Below is Inauguration Ball 2009* by Richard Kenyada, from his book Reflections in the Dark RoomTake time today to learn any of the names below that you aren't familiar with and discover how they have contributed to our daily lives.  You can also read along as you listen to this excellent radio adaptation by Miss. Maxine (@SideHustleStory) at Side Hustle Stories.

A. Phillip Randolph
Guests began arriving early. There are no place cards and no name tags. Everyone knows everyone else here. Now, there's a grand foursome - Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz sharing laughs with Martin and Coretta Scott King. Looks like Hosea Williams refused the limo again, keeping it real. And my goodness; is that Rosa Parks out there on the dance floor with A. Phillip RandolphGeoffrey Cambridge took one look at the trio of Zora Neale HurstonRalph Ellison and James Baldwin, and jokingly asked, "My God, who invited my personal library?"

Seated at a nearby table, Frederick Douglass has a captive audience in W.E.B. DuBose and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Medgar Evers has just joined them. Marian Anderson was asked to sing tonight, but she only agreed to do it if Bessie Smith and Mahalia Jackson shared the stage, and they were accompanied by Marvin GayeJohn Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Look, there's Harriet Tubman. No one knows how she arrived, but there she is. And my guess is that, when the time comes, no one will see her leave.

Marian Anderson
There's Jackie Robinson swiftly making his way through the hall as the crowd parts like the Red Sea to the unmistakable sound of applause. "Run, Jackie, run!" Along the way he is embraced by Jesse Owens.  Three beautiful young women arrive with their escorts – SchwernerGoodman and ChaneyMs. Viola Liuzzo flew in from Michigan, exclaiming, "I could not miss this."

Richard Pryor promised to be on his best behavior. "But I can't make any guarantees for Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley," he chuckled. Joe Louis just faked a quick jab to the chin of Jack Johnson, who smiled broadly while slipping it. We saw Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole greet Luther VanDrossJames Brown and Josh Gibson stopped at Walter Payton's table to say hello.  Althea Gibson said, "You always were a charmer," as she gave Arthur Ashe a hug. August WilsonDouglas Turner Ward and Lorraine Hansberry have just arrived from New York.

Miriam Makeba
I witnessed one touching moment after another… Young Emmett Till tapped James Farmer on the shoulder. "Mr. Farmer I really don't want to sit at the children's table. We feel we're old enough to be out here with everyone else. My friends here are Addie Mae Collins, 14, Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14 and Cynthia Wesley, 14. They just came in from a church in Birmingham. None of us wanted to miss this night."  Then, all decked out in stylish evening wear, a small group of guests from the New Orleans Superdome proudly took their seats to rousing applause. It warmed my heart to see Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba, still singing and dancing pata pata style. I caught a glimpse of Lincoln Perry. He was steppin' all right, but this time he was in white tie and tails.

Bill Pickett
San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk discusses organizing strategies with activist Cesar Chavez. The 60-Minutes man, Ed Bradley, just introduced himself to Josephine Baker, who flew in from Paris. It made me smile to notice how uncomfortable rodeo cowboy Bill Pickett looks in a tuxedo. Then there are the African warrior and his pregnant wife. No one knows for sure, but John Henrik Clarke thinks they could be the first Africans to have thrown themselves over the rail of a slave ship rather than take their chances with Affirmative Action. I felt a sudden chill when I saw Dred Scott speaking with Johnnie Cochran, who believes he could have won the case. Satchel Paige made his way through the crowd to greet Ossie Davis, who was sharing thoughts with Langston Hughes over there near the crystal stair. Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando were intently listening to Nina Simone make a point, while John and Bobby Kennedy cornered Lyndon Johnson for a few laughs. All was forgiven.

Oscar Peterson is moving to take his turn on the bandstand, followed by Ray Brown. And it looks like Art Blakey and Max Roach will be keeping it tight. I spotted Congressman Adam Clayton Powell having a lively political discussion with Eldredge Cleaver, and there's Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall looking on with interest. World War II Pearl Harbor hero Dorey Miller shared a few thoughts with Crispus Attucks, a hero of the Revolutionary War. And there is Madam C.J. Walker talking with Marcus Garvey about exporting goods to Africa. Look out, America - a King of Comedy, Bernie Mac, is in the house. But tonight, he is the perfect gentleman, with Lady Day and Ella on each arm. A party wouldn't be a party without the lively bunch from Galveston Texas that brought all the jubilation of their annual Juneteenth gathering.

Shirley Chisholm
General Benjamin O. Davis flew into Washington safely with an escort from the 99th Fighter Squadron - better known as The Tuskegee Airmen. At the table on the left are three formidable women - Shirley ChisholmSojourner Truth, and Barbara Jordan - gathered for a little girl-talk... about world politics. No one could mistake the men of the 9th and 10th Cavalry. As they mingled among the celebrities, The Buffalo Soldiers found adoring fans of their own. One soldier looked up and told his buddies, "Sharpen up, the 54th is in the house!" noting the fresh uniforms of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry that fought so Glory-ously in the Civil War.

Patricia Harris
As usual, all the science nerds seem to have gathered off in a corner, talking shop. There's Granville T. Woods and Lewis Latimer needling each other about whose inventions are better. Someone jokingly asked Benjamin Banneker if he had needed directions to Washington. And George Washington Carver was overheard asking, "What, no peanuts?" James Weldon Johnson busted out laughing as he remembered how he wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as a poem to introduce Booker T. Washington at a celebration for Abe Lincoln. "Looks like I'll have to write another verse for Barack." President Lincoln smiled and nodded in agreement while refusing an offered chair. "Learned my lesson; when you sit down in Washington, they make a monument of you," he joked. U.S. Cabinet secretaries Ron Brown and Patricia Harris are heard discussing possible Cabinet appointments in the new administration.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson 
Dueling bands? Anytime Duke Ellington and Count Basie get together, you know the place will be jumping. Tonight is special, of course, so we have MilesDizzy, and Satchmo sitting in on trumpet, with ColtraneCannonball, and Bird on sax. Everyone's attention is directed to the dance floor where Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is tap dancing. Right beside him is Sammy Davis Jr., doing his Bojangles routine. And behind his back, Gregory Hines is imitating them both. Applause and laughter abound!

The Hollywood contingent has just arrived from the Coast. Led by filmmaker Oscar MicheauxPaul RobesonCanada Lee, and Hattie McDaniel, they find their way to their tables. At a nearby table, Beah Richards and ButterflyMcQueen are enjoying a conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt and Gordon ParksDorothy Dandridge, looking exquisite in gold lamé, is seen signaling to her husband, Harold Nicholas, who is standing on the floor with brother Fayard watching Gregory Hines dance. "Hold me back," quips Harold, "before I show that youngster how it's done." Much laughter!

Sam Cooke
You can't miss the big smile on the face of Sam Cooke as he moves through the crowd reminding everyone that he was the first to tell us that a Change was gonna come. Meanwhile, Ellington seats Ray Charles at the piano, and Brother Ray rips into a rousing version of "America the Beautiful." My heart felt like it would burst right through my chest. I had to remind myself to keep breathing. Then a sudden hush comes over the room. A single silhouetted figure stands at center stage, and as the lights slowly come up, the crowd recognizes the man of the hour, President Barack Obama.

The applause and cheers were deafening. The President looked out across the enormous ballroom at all the historic faces. There were many smiles; precious few dry eyes. Someone shouted out, "You did it! You did it!" And Obama replied, "No sir, you did it; you all – each and every one of you – did it. Your guidance and encouragement; your hard work and perseverance..." Obama paused, catching a glimpse of his mothergrandfather and his beloved grandmother, Toot. "You would not let me fail," he said, addressing them directly.

Workers in front of the White House
And after briefly composing himself, he continues, without cue cards or TelePrompTer. He speaks to us from his heart. "I look at your faces - your beautiful faces - and I am reminded that The White House was built by faces that looked just like yours. On October 3, 1792, the cornerstone of the White House was laid, and the foundations and main residence of the White House were built mostly by both enslaved and free African Americans and paid Europeans. In fact, most of the other construction work was performed by immigrants, many of whom had not yet become citizens. Much of the brick and plaster work was performed by Irish and Italian immigrants. The sandstone walls were built by Scottish immigrants.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the White House is, ultimately, The People's House, with each President serving as its steward. Since 1792 The People have trimmed its hedges, mowed its lawn, stood guard at its gate, cooked meals in its kitchen, and scrubbed its toilet bowls. But 216 years later, The People are taking it back!"

More applause, and recorded music begins to play. Then Michelle makes her own entrance to the music of The Pretenders – "I'll Stand By You." She walks up behind Barack, kisses him and holds him tightly, as the song continues, "I'll stand by you; I'll stand by you. Won't let nobody hurt you. I'll stand by you." That's where I lost it, and tears streamed down my face.

The Obama familyThe President smiled broadly and took her hand as the music faded. "Today, Michelle and I usher in a new era. But, while we and our family look toward the future with so much hope, we know that we must also acknowledge fully this milestone in our journey. We want to thank each and every one of you for all you have done to make this day possible. I stand here before you, humbled and in awe of your splendid accomplishments and unwavering sacrifice. I will dedicate my Presidency, in your honor, to the principles of peace, liberty and freedom. And if it ever appears that I'm forgetting that, I know I can count on you to remind me." Then he pointed to me near the stage... "Kenyada, isn't it time for you to wake up for work? Isn't it time... Isn't it time for all of us to wake up and get to work?"

Suddenly I awake and sit right up in bed with a knowing smile. My wife stirs and sleepily asks if I'm OK.  "I've never been better," I replied, "Never better. It's gonna be a good day."

* Though BTSF readers come from across the political spectrum, don't be distracted by party affiliation. Some moments are bigger than partisan politics. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saying Yes to God from the Margins

Please welcome back Rev. Marty Troyer, pastor of Houston Mennonite Church: The Church of the Sermon on the Mount, on whose site the original version this post was published. He takes us through some  reflections on Lent from the margins:

That the saints of history said “Yes” to God is not a story. Esther, Mary, Jesus, Michael Sattler, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer are not unique because they answered the call. They are household names because of the context within which they said “Where do I sign?” Their yes was spoken into the darkness of opposition, oppression and hatred. They are a voice crying out from the wilderness, the margins, outside dominant culture and accepted norms. This is no easily whispered “yes.” For saying yes from the minority fringe is very different than saying yes from the safe confines of dominant culture.

But our story began on the margins, with Jesus, who himself was “an outsider” who “sympathized with the disadvantaged and estranged" (John Driver, Radical Faith, pg 24). Howard Thurman, speaking within the black church context, says in Jesus and the Disinherited, “The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish teacher and thinker appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed.” This view is echoed everywhere Christians find themselves oppressed, impoverished, or on the margins. And it was equally true of the Anabaptists, forced to the margins by the violence of the state churches.

Our Lenten lectionary texts were clearly not written to, by, or within dominant culture. The Gospels, the Psalms, and the Epistles especially reveal a marginalized community of origin set apart by persecution. And yet over and again they shouted, Where do I sign? What was it about their faith that empowered them to say “yes” to God in a world that could not? What is it today about the faith in marginalized communities that consistently calls them to lives of passion and faith? And what can we learn from the margins that will deepen our own faith? But also, what are the dangers of reading from only one perspective

Jesus Nailed to Cross, Martyr's Mirror
Context matters! Social location changes how we interpret God, self and our world. Religion for a wealthy white western male will be different than it is for a poor Jewish peasant from Galilee under Roman rule. Putting ourselves in another’s shoes creates empathy and increases our capacity to love all people. But more importantly it reveals the depth of faith which sustains and inspires radical devotion to Christ in a resistant world. As missional Anabaptists situated on the margins, this is our kind of faith!

For instance, who could better understand the power of Jesus nonviolent teaching on retaliation, ” turn the other cheek… do not retaliate revengefully by evil means… love your enemies” than the African Amercian churches who lived under oppressive racism and fought for justice through nonviolent direct action? Or who can rightly teach us to follow Jesus’ teachings “blessed are the poorGive to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” except the poor themselves; who live this ethic as a matter of survival and community rather than charity? Likewise, I’m learning from Houston’s immigrant community who have had their wages stolen the necessity and spirituality to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” These are all passages from Matthew 5:38-44 that have been and are interpreted (and practiced!) radically different among those of us in Dominant majority culture (differently enough to make you ask, Is Jesus an idiot?).

Our Lenten journey probes these questions and invites us to embody the Jesus narrative to such a degree we too can say “yes” to God, regardless the consequences. So we invite you to explore Lent from the margins in a variety of ways: through worship, personal reflection and learning, and group events. It’s our deepest desire that in signing on to celebrate Lent from and with the margins, you’ll be more ready than ever to say 'Yes' to God in your life!

Find some 'Resources from the Margins' to help guide you through this Lenten season. 

See Also:
Reverb: The unintended consequences of our daily behavior

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday Fruit (02/24/12)

On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.

It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

See Also:
Arizona's Ban on 'Ethnic Studies'
Racism in Academic Admissions
White History Month

Monday, February 20, 2012

Racial Profiling and the Japanese American Internment

On February 19, 1942,  Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. EO-9066 stripped American citizens of their legal rights, allowing their indefinite imprisonment without due process. Having broken no laws, hundreds of thousands suffered the undue loss of their freedom and property.

The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans is one of the many subjects that are egregiously under-taught in our schools (See posts: 'Ethnic Studies' and 'White History Month'), yet it holds particular salience for our lives today. When anyone's constitutional rights are violated, it further normalizes the practice for everyone else as well. As we continue to observe racially-based harassment of Americans for the sake of 'national security', we must understand the precedence the United States has for such behavior:

Though German and Italian Americans did face harassment during WWII, they were never summarily imprisoned en masse based on their ancestry. Japanese Americans, however, were racially profiled and forced into concentration camps (the term used by FDR and others at that time). Even as German U-boats navigated the eastern coastline, imprisonment efforts focused on combating Japanese espionage that was never actually substantiated by evidence.

Most internees were taken from the west coast, where the 'threat of espionage' was perceived to be the highest. Yet, had 'military necessity' actually been the driving force for this action (as was originally claimed), we would expect Hawaii residents to be the heavily targeted for their proximity to both Japan and the key US Pacific military base. On the contrary, despite a 35% Japanese-American population, only 1% were detained in Hawaii. Rather than a strategic military operation, the imprisonment of ~120,000 people was instead “motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

Remind you of anything?
Individuals, families, and entire communities were forcibly removed from their homes and were sent to one of ten internment camps in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arkansas. These locations consisted of unpartitioned toilets, cots for beds, and "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." Camps were surrounded by barbed wire, and prisoners were provided with a daily 45 cents per capita for food rations. Of those imprisoned, nearly half were children under the age of 18.

One of the first examples of legal opposition to the government's policy of internment was Hirabayashi v. United States. Gordon Hirabayashi contested his imprisonment, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1943, where he eventually lost unanimously (a ruling finally vacated in 1986). On the same day, the court ruled against a similar case Yasui v. United States, and a year later against that of Fred Korematsu (See post: Fred Korematsu Day).

Another version of the
'Sundown town'
Perhaps most famous of the three cases, the Korematsu v. United States decision ruled that EO-9066 was indeed constitutional in its violation of civil rights. Of note, during the course of the proceedings, Solicitor General Charles Fahy suppressed legal documents, which stated that "there was no evidence Japanese Americans were disloyal, were acting as spies or were signaling enemy submarines." Through it all, white Americans either voiced support for the interment program or simply remained silent. Indeed, the ACLU largely sided with the FDR administration.

Today, we observe rampant racial profiling in the name of national security. Since 9/11, the treatment of American Muslims, and those of Middle Eastern decent, has followed a xenophobic trend toward limiting citizens' individual rights. For example, a federal appeals ruling in 2008 gave President Bush "legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States." The harassment of latin@ residents and citizens over 'board security' concerns echoes similar racialized tactics.

As long as such behavior is a part of our history and our current policy, we have no business characterizing our country as 'a melting pot' where 'anyone can succeed' by 'pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.' Take some time to learn the stories of the Americans imprisoned as a result of EO-9066, and then reflect on the implications of our current attitudes and policies surrounding national security.

Where is the line between individual rights and national security? Who should decide which is given priority? What suggestions do you have for striking a balance between the two?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Fruit (02/17/12)

Jimmie Begay
On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.

It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:
  • Ramarley Graham: Shot by police who broke into his home without a search warrant

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

See Also:
Arizona's Ban on 'Ethnic Studies'
Racism in Academic Admissions
White History Month

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Arizona's Ban on 'Ethnic Studies'

Beyond Arizona's now-famous anti-immigrations law, it also has several others worth examining.

HB 2281 bans public schools (including universities) from teaching classes that are "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" and that foster "resentment toward a race or class of people."

But classes have been taught for a 'particular ethic group' for centuries, constantly and belligerently focusing on a single story: the white story. Meantime, significant portions of history are silenced or marginalized in the mainstream classroom. This neglect is detrimental to all students, but is particularly harmful to those students of color that don't get to hear the stories of their heritage taught in the classroom (all while contending with a daily barrage of negative stereotypes in the media).

This lopsided representation of history was starting to be balanced by classes that carved out safe space for the many stories that had traditionally been neglected. But now we have Arizona's new law that bans such classes from taking place.

But gosh! If our classrooms are predominately filled with white history, I guess this new law banning courses about particular ethnic groups means that Arizona teachers have to TOTALLY revamp their history courses (US, European, and world), art courses, music courses, English Lit courses, science courses. All of which have traditionally focused on the white perspective. Or is that not what the legislators meant?

Also in this law, Arizona declares it wants its people to be treated like individuals (H.B. 2281 lines 6, 16)...good thing they have a new immigration law that targets large groups of people indiscriminately and regardless of any individualism that may exist within those groups.

The new rules also say you can't teach in Arizona schools if you are from "BAHston" or "New Joisey" (The Arizona Department of Education suspends/reassigns teachers that are found to have accents). Or again, are native New Englanders not who the law is xenophobicly targeting? 

Final note: Gov. Brewer might have signed the thing, but don't forget she serves an electorate and a law doesn't get to her desk without the state legislature.

Check out some of these books for an alternative perspective on history and to see how schools have been "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" for years:

Howard Zinn--A People's History of the United States
James W. Loewen--Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
James W. Loewen--Teaching What Really Happened

See Also:
White History Month
Racism in Academic Admissions
What is a post-9/11 American?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Round Up (02/10/12)

On Fridays, we post a round up of the week's happenings.

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of our links of interest this week. What are yours?

See Also:
White History Month
I Don't Know
Internal Conflict

Monday, February 6, 2012

White History Month

"Why isn't there a white history month?! 
           That's reverse racism!"
Because we already have white history year (decade, centuries...)!

In the United States, white history is the default, assumed perspective. It's what's taught in the classrooms, portrayed in the media, and informs policy making. So we don't need a special time to teach it. It is taught ALL the time.

The unfortunate thing about Black History Month is that some people think the history is just for black folk. The truth is, we are all missing large chunks of historical knowledge, which hinders us as we move forward in our relationships today. As I grow in my racial awareness, it is profoundly embarrassing that the names of major figures in history are completely unknown to me. I am ignorant. I find myself having scramble to catch up and make up for lost time--cramming names and events that should have been taught to me years ago.  It might not be my fault that my high school let me graduate without this knowledge, but now it's on me to rectify it. I am so far behind in my knowledge of music, literature, science. I need a black history month...I just need to celebrate it year 'round to begin to catch up.

History textbook cover:
Columbus, but no Native Americans,
 Kitty Hawk, but no Tuskegee Airmen,
the transcontinental railway,
 but no Chinese immigrant workgangs.
 Just a group of anonymous slaves. 
A lot of the issues are rooted with our education systemTextbooks that don't give the full picture, teachers that gloss over hard truths. To read my 10th grade history textbook, you would think black folks didn't exist in the United States until they suddenly become emancipated from slavery, then they disappeared for a while until angry mobs took to the streets demanding civil rights. There were maybe two famous African-Americans of note, Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass, but they were the 'exceptional Negroes'--the ones that stood out from the crowd. My textbook had a small sectioned entitled "white resistance to civil rights" and is followed not long after by a section about the Civil Rights Acts called "The Great Society and the Triumph of Liberalism." (Well, I'm glad that was taken care of!).

The same principles apply to many aspects of our history: Native American achievements and contributions, the USA's paternalist relationship with the Philippines, Japanese internment camps, on and on (see Howard Zinn and James Loewen for more information). Some of it is mentioned in schools, but too often it's "oh yeah and this happened too."

How do we hope for reconciliation if we know so terribly little about those to whom we wish to be reunited?How incredibly disingenuous to say "I stand with you" and then have to ask basic questions about the history of our divide! To love one another, it seems we aught to first know each other! White folks' ignorance is the basis for a lot of pain and misunderstanding in the reconciliation process. Without a foundational knowledge of Al Jolson and minstrel shows, it might be hard to understand why blackface at a party is never ok. White folks are often surprised when black people get angry over 'little things,' but if we understood our history a bit better, we would probably get angry too. 

This picture was not in my history text book
It's important to make a concerted effort to rectify that short coming, and setting aside a devoted month to do so can help. Unfortunately, cordoning off a four weeks to put MLK's picture up everywhere isn't going to cut it. It is a hollow act of token recognition that just allows white folks to pat themselves on the backs for their inclusiveness and then move on with their lives for the rest of the year. Its like we in the majority are deigning to allow this concession of a month at our own benevolent discretion

Put better by Renee at Womanist Musings:
By presenting this as a celebration of 'look how far we have come', we fail to focus on the ways in which race still continues to play a pivotal role in who has access to power in this society. White women are still clutching their purses in the presence of black men, we are still largely portrayed as prostitutes and criminals in the media...

Ah, yes....the media. Another main culprit, alongside our education system. For one month out of the year, advertisers and big companies use February as an excuse to market to black folks (often very awkwardly), then go back to their true colors on March 1. Media bias deserves its own post, but suffice it to say that once again I find myself scrambling and making up for my missing knowledge to get the full picture about the world around me.

So lets educate ourselves a bit, beginning with the history of Black History Month itself:

Carter G. Woodson initiated Negro History Week in 1926 in February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The idea was to bring black history to the attention of the broader American public. Then, in 1976 the black history was given an entire month--albeit the shortest month of the year.

Continuing our history lesson, how about some identification tasks:
Can you name the 14 people pictured here?
I'll get you started: MLK, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman...

Name five black figures of
historical significance....not so hard.
Now name ten more...

Do you know who Cathay Williams is? Marian AndersonCrispus Attucks?  Matthew Henson? Ida B. WellsRichard Wright? Marcus Garvey? Who are some significant white allies during the civil rights movement? These shouldn't be obscure names to you, but too often they are.

Can you name the inventor of the light bulb? no problem. What about the carbon filament essential to it? Or the traffic light? hmmm. Telephone? Easy. The blood bank? Not so much. Eyeglasses? yep. Person to patent laser cataract removal? First brain surgeon to perform a hemispherectomy and the first to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head!?!?! Many of us would have starved as children without peanut butter (I am definitely in that category!), but have no idea who to thank for it.
Ok Methodist sisters and brothers...
how about this one? 

The thing is, folks, this isn't simply black history, it's women's history, it's LGBT history, it's military history, it's literary history, it's science history, it's religious history. It's American history.

Asian-American, Native American, and Latino-American histories are also constantly marginalized and ignored (and now they're even criminalized). If these narratives were given as much weight as white history in the classroom, they wouldn't need their own time set aside.

If you don't know some of these most famous of examples I cite here (and I really just graze the surface), do yourself a favor and spend the next 30 minutes looking at the links, reading wikepedia, and educating yourself.  Thirty minutes is a minuscule amount of time to a devote to a subject so neglected, especially compared to the vast history that we are missing out on--but it's a start. You owe it to yourself. 

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