Besides holding down her job as my wife and mother of my two sons, Scott and Kyle, Joyce Owens is an artist and a professor and curator at Chicago State University. When she's not eyeballs deep in one of those five jobs, she takes time out to curate an exhibition for Sapphire & Crystals, a collective of African American women artists here in Chicago.
Without fail, this is the time of the year when the S & C's can bank on an exhibition somewhere. Black History Month really is predictable. And without fail, this is the time of the year when I was a captive sounding board, forced to hear Joyce complain about how this was the only time of the year that it occurred to white galleries, universities and community centers that showing art by black women is a good thing to do.
I understand all too well.
Although I'm available year round, my best speaking engagement in 2009 was a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr./President Barack Obama Celebration for the City of Chicago Height, Illinois. Of course, Obama's Inauguration was a true historical moment. The King Holiday and Black History Month, on the other hand, have become as regular as a Gregorian Calendar. The two African American observation's have sort of blended into Black History Season, which begins the day after Christmas for Kwanza and rolls on through the end of February. As for the rest of the year--forget about us.
I was reminded of this peculiarity when I read the latest post of my friend Jack White, Buckwheat's Black History Month Tour, on the Washington Post's black website, The Root. This visit to "the Home of Retired Racial Stereotypes" is a funny as Jack's drop in last April. Check it out and then tell me--if you can--why Black History Month shouldn't be integrated into American history, 24/7/52?
Here's Jack's post:
Buckwheat’s Black History Month Tour
By: Jack White
Posted: February 1, 2010 at 6:38 AM
Forget all the black public intellectuals. The Our Gang character has a few things to get off his chest. I came across Buckwheat packing a Kente cloth suitcase in his suite at the Home for Retired Racial Stereotypes. He was softly humming, “On the Road Again.”
"Going somewhere?” I inquired.
“Your what?” I responded.
“My annual Black His’try Month speakin’ tour!”
said my diminutive friend in a high-pitched voice as he carefully
folded a colorful dashiki and placed it in the valise.
“This the month when black public
in-tee-leck-shals like me rakes in ‘nuf speakin’ fees to pay the bills
the rest of the year when nobody wants to hear nothin’ we got to say,”
said Buckwheat. “It’s kinda like bears eatin’ ‘nuf salmon durin’ the
spawnin’ run to get them through the winter.”
“I never thought of it like that,” I observed.
“Where will you be chowing down … I meant, speaking?”
“Oh, I’m booked solid,” said Buckwheat proudly.
“I’m as pop’lar as Henry Louis Gates, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson,
Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Clarence Page put together. I got a Black
His’try road show with a bus and everythin’! ”
“But how could you possibly compete with such a gallery of brilliant minds?” I asked, skeptically.
“All of them just talks ‘bout black his’try,” he ranted, his voice rising into higher and higher registers.
“I lives it. I don’t just talk about racial
stereotypes—I IS one! Nobody can say ‘Here I is’ or ‘Otay’ like me!
Those are MY trademarks!!! I is an icon!! I is an original!!! WHEN YOU
SAY BUCKWHEAT, YOU SAY BLACK HIS’TRY!!!!!”
His tiny fists were pumping in the air, and he was
shrieking at such a high pitch it fractured the crystal glasses in the
“Is that so,” I remarked.
“Yeah, and I got a book comin’ out to prove it. It’s called The Negro Squeaks of Rivers,” Buckwheat boasted. “PBS is plannin’ a 19-part series based on it. They think it could be bigger than Roots.”
Just then, I heard the growl of an engine and an
enormous red, black and green touring bus pulled up at the door. It
looked like the Kingfish was at the wheel.
“That’s my ride! Gotta go get paid!” shouted
Buckwheat, lugging the bulging suitcase toward the door. “So long,
White. Be seein’ you in March!”
I waved goodbye, shook my head and closed the door.
Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.
This column has also been cross-posted on the African American Opinion.com website.