To Speak Or Not To Speak

   By drodriguez  Feb 20, 2008

Schools and libraries throughout the country often celebrate February as Black History Month by inviting prominent black figures such as politicians, writers, entertainers, etc to speak publicly.  To some this is both an honor and a problematic issue.  After many years of only being asked to speak during February or getting turned down when asking to speak during a different month some speakers have begun to question the message this is sending

Back in 2005, John Wiley Price (the only black county commissioner in Dallas) told the Associated Press that he no longer makes public appearances in February.  Price said that he recently began to realize that “black people were visible during February, but the other 11 months of the year we became the invisible people.” 

Writer Tayari Jones recently wrote an article for The Believer in which she describes her own experience during Black History Month.  She writes that she feels fairly confident she would not have been asked to speak at many institutions if it were not during February. 

Jones also points out that some writers have begun to test institutions by saying they have a scheduling conflict in February, but could speak March 1st.  If the institutions agree to a different date, the writer then backtracks and agrees to the February date.

Though Tayari Jones reveals problems surrounding Black History Month invitations, she admits to having significant experiences while speaking during this month.  Jones describes one February when she was able to connect with an audience member, “What matters is not so much why the people filled the room but rather what happened when we were all together.”

What do you think of the way some institutions tend to only invite black speakers during Black History Month?

Make a Comment

debi_123 by debi_123 | Sylvester, GA
Aug 22, 2008

Wow I never thought of this being a real issue of this sort you all have really brought another way of thinking to me. As such there also should be more thought of what has the African American brought this land of ours. So should there be thoughts of what all of the Americans changed in this great melting pot of ours. Such as the Hispanic American also dont you think? Is this in your ways of thinking also? As well the Germans have brought much to our land. As much as the Greek , and the Italian is this in your way of thinking , am I right? I am with you all if this is your thoughts .. Because I also see this.

asoutherner by asoutherner | Fayetteville, AR
Jul 18, 2008

During my elementary years, I was a minority white in a mostly African-American school. We often were taught about black leaders and inventors throughout the year, not just in February. To this day, George Washington Carver still stands out in my mind as a great inventor, who happened to be black. Did he stand out because he was black? No, it was for all of the creative ways he came up with to use peanuts. Can you imagine if he were around today? We may be driving peanut powered cars!

abartz by abartz | Glendale, CA
Jun 25, 2008

I agree with most of the posters on here. My school did not celebrate Black History month, but I still learned a lot about black history. I completely agree, Black History Month is making the race issue worse. We should be celebrating what brought us together, not perpetuating stereotypes. This is exactly what I thought we didn't want--separation.

Carahlion by Carahlion | Pembroke Pines, FL
Jun 06, 2008

I'm very torn with the Black History Month argument. Although i realize that giving it a month separates us from the rest of America, i do think that if there was no month, schools and textbooks would neglect teaching our kids about it. in most history textbooks there are only a couple chapters devoted to black advancement, all set around the civil rights movement. but after these specific historical events are over, it goes right back to neglecting to address the black struggle. so, i do think that we have to focus on black history all year long but i do feel that leaving the month in place would help emphasize the lessons that were never really focused on.

jennicks by jennicks | Wichita, KS
May 02, 2008

I think it should be American History Month. A friend's daughter asked why schools study Black Histiry Month but do nothing for Cinco de Mayo. How do you explain to a child why a one gets a month discussion and one does not get any discussion?

bbcoop by bbcoop | GREENFIELD, IN
Mar 21, 2008

I think it is a smart idea to "test the institutions" to see what the intentions are and if they are willing to have you speak in another month, it seems so silly that anyone would make decisions on when someone would speak based on whether its february or not! Don't we all live in a country that has benefited every single day of the year from the contributions of our fellow Americans!

domesticgoddess_1 by domesticgoddess_1 | Antigo, WI
Mar 15, 2008

I agree with the idea of American history. We are keeping segregation alive by dividing it.

missie_dee2003 by missie_dee2003 | NASHVILLE, GA
Mar 12, 2008

I agree with the first 7 comments( this is the only ones here at the moment).If leaders would stop the separations then I believe this country would start to heal and maybe we can get past the bitterness. it seems everytime people start to get along with each other all these so called leaders stir up another confrontaion, Its like the "leaders" do not want peace.

uhmyasmin by uhmyasmin | newport news, VA
Mar 07, 2008

My childrens elementary school here in Va doesnt acknowledge Black History Month, the principal feels accomplishments shouldnt only be recognized in 1 month but all months. I agree with her, and accomplishment is such ,regardless of color or month.

cvarano by cvarano | BROOKLYN, NY
Feb 26, 2008

I also agree with mommy2twogirls. I do understand why black history month was brought about. I didn't have black history month at my school and when taking American History learned very little about prominent African American figures in our history. But to just separate it into one month is also ridiculous. Why can't we just get better textbooks that detail American history with all the races that have made America?

Brea by Brea | Rensselaer, NY
Feb 26, 2008

I can't agree enough with mommy2twogirls! It IS separation!

tesa33 by tesa33 | GIG HARBOR, WA
Feb 25, 2008

Every writer should be criticized based on their writing, not their race! There are many authors who speak around the country of many different races. Of course there will be fewer blacks in this group simply because they represent a smaller portion of the population. I agree--we do need to think of ourselves as American people and one race. Black History Month is confusing. Are we talking about all blacks? Only blacks with ancestors who were slaves? Blacks, as whites, have a vast and colorful history. Not everyone has an ancestor who was a slave in the South. Many fled Africa to be Americans!! Maybe we should have Stop Human Trafficking month in general and think about persecuted people worldwide!

brandykatt by brandykatt | Kenosha, WI
Feb 23, 2008

I was thinking the exact same thing today. I think the government gets bullied or wants votes so they pander to certain groups. I am not specifically talking about Black History Month. Just in general. This keeps people from being americans, period. Our race is human beings. Things seem to be getting worse in some areas with keeping groups of people apart by only pointing out differences. I grew up in the 60-70's & we tried to get people together but civic leaders fought against it, all the while preaching the opposite. People need to wake up & stop following like sheep. Think for yourselves.

mommy2twogirls by mommy2twogirls | SAN ANTONIO, TX
Feb 21, 2008

I personally think that we need to start calling it American History Month. Because Black history is American history and by dividing the two we are promoting separation where we should be united as a country. We should just be proud to be Americans. By changing the name I bet we would see more institutions inviting black speakers year round instead of just in February.