Saturday, February 18, 2012

February Is Black History Month #TLLBLND

February is Black History month and many people have their own idea of what this stands for. History, celebration, recognition; whatever you choose to call it, it means nothing until you read it, taste it, wear it, sing it, and see it. We should always remember to "Walk in another man's shoes".

My attempt at this week's article is not to try to give a history lesson but to excite you to go out and find a new interest in another culture which most appropriately I will rephrase to "Slice of American Culture".
American culture is not one culture. It is an amalgam of all its people who live in it and their contributions simply brought in by everyday life. 
My heritage is western European, and my spouses' is east Indian. We love to share family stories, eat traditional foods, wear various forms of dress, read historic books, watch televised travel programming, etc. This month I ask everyone to challenge yourself and try one aspect of African-American, or Black life of your choosing. Eat at an ethnic restaurant, visit a museum, buy a book at Marcus Books in San Francisco/Oakland, watch Ken Burns' documentary on "The Jazz Age", buy African jewelry, find some interesting music on iTunes, etc. I am going to try some more recipes from my cookbook "African American Heritage Cookbook" (want this book too?), and visit my favorite rib joint "Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA (click for YUM!).

African slave contributions to American life:

Cultivation of rice plantations
"Shotgun" style of house
Jazz and Blues music
Steam engine for war ships
Numerous farming equipment inventions
Improvements in American dairy industry
Small Pox vaccine
Skilled metal and leather work
Importation of legumes native to Africa
Deep fat frying style of cooking
Expert cattlemen
Banjo musical instrument
Various forms of dance and music
Holistic health-root doctors
Inventions in botany
Peanut Butter
and so much more-
My friend Clemmon of 20 years shared with me a wonderful story from his youth. The year was 1965, it was the segregated South and this story takes place outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. Schools in Clemmon's neighborhood as in many American cities were segregated into black students and white students. A new school was built to include the latest technologies, up to date text books and a new experimental style of instruction, it was also not to be segregated. Students from the two neighboring segregated schools had the option to attend. Most students from the white school transferred and 50 students from the black school also made the transfer including Clemmon. During the first few days of school new students were met at the entrance with the presence of police and their trained dogs for what was obviously a fear of potential trouble. None occurred and Clemmon tells me everyone happily integrated and lifelong friendships were created. In ensuing years more and more students made the move to the new school. Here is a shining glimmer of hope during the 1960's, during a decade of extreme racial turmoil. Fear exists only for the unknown, we will all benefit by sharing.
Purchase the four-part documentary "Slavery, And The Making Of America", (click) produced by WNET New York in 2004. A written transcript is also readily available here. I found episode four most compelling for immediately following the end of the civil war freed slaves held elected federal office in the House of Representatives and Congress. This survived only a short 9 years then quickly disappeared under the direction of President Ulysses Grant. It would take nearly 100 years to repair.

Tell me what you will do to recognize "Black History month" ?



  1. My husband, Patrick and I plan to go to An Old Fashioned "Gospel Sing-a-Long" Sunday at 6pm at Emmanuel Baptist Church on White Rd., San Jose, CA. We have some new neighbors who inviteed us to celebrate African-American Heritage Month with them - they will be featuring Gospel Artists from around the Bay Area. We love that old fashioned Gospel music - should be fun! Leslie

  2. My recipe for SOUTHERN SPICE TEA PUNCH in the section above marked "Sippy Cup" sounds like the perfect beverage to celebrate with new friends. I found it in the cookbook I referenced in the article, "African American Heritage Cookbook".



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