Editor’s note: The following piece has been edited for clarity and length.
February is a month that is traditionally devoted to grand celebrations that have historically cast black people out. The Grammys and Oscars create more of a buzz in mainstream media — and even in parts of academia — than Black History Month usually does (although both recognized the hell out of some black people this year).
Thanks to social media and a flurry of activity to feed it, 2019’s BHM has offered both Black Excellence and Black-Twitter-worthy memes to balance the equation.
We shouldn’t ignore the fact that some pretty noteworthy things happened this month. BET began airing “American Soul,” a series about legendary television producer and host, Don Cornelius.
Cornelius’ iconic dance show “Soul Train” was a staple in black households from the ‘70s to the ‘90s. If you don’t know about it, episodes are only a mere YouTube search away. Save yourself the pain and skip anything after ’99 though.
Chicago police finally managed to go through the decades of evidence they have against R. Kelly and issued an arrest warrant. The R&B granddaddy who prefers to be called “daddy” turned himself into police on the glorious evening of Feb. 22. He likely thought the late hour would save him from the media circus a fellow Chicagoan faced earlier in the month but, that’s a paragraph for another story.
Detroit’s own Melissa Butler opened a downtown location for her popular Lip Bar. The cosmetics line was infamously insulted on NBC’s “Shark Tank” in 2015. Since then, Butler has been wildly successful in online sales, at pop-up shops and, most recently, Target — both in stores and online.
Let’s just get it out of the way: Jussie Smollett.
I’m content saying it’s an embarrassment regardless of how this all pans out. Although, it does beg the question: If Smollett has been arrested for making a false police report, will the alphabet list of other offenders also be arrested? Beginning with BBQ Becky, of course.
The entire state of Virginia has lost its collective mind. The leadership just can’t get it right. The governor confirmed, then denied, that he posed for a photo in blackface. Even worse was his reasoning that he knew he wasn’t the man in this particular photo because when he did blackface, it was different.
In the words of one of my sister-girlfriends, “Jesus-Quantavious-Christ.” Just insert the face palm emoji and be done.
If only it were that simple. Virginia’s lieutenant governor has been accused of sexual assault — a few times over. The attorney general confessed that he has worn blackface too!
Pro-tip: It’s never okay to wear blackface.
Lastly, Netflix released “Siempre Bruja.” The Columbian-produced drama was highly anticipated after the trailer featured a dark-skinned woman being burned at the stake for being black and a witch somewhere in the way-back past, only to return to 2019 to live her best witchy life. The trailer left out the fact that the main character was a slave. In love. With her white master.
Honorable mention must be given to the four candidates who threw their hats into the presidential race this month. That brings the count up to 14.
Speaking of presidential candidates, Kamala Harris experienced a mini-storm of controversy after appearing for a radio interview on The Breakfast Club. She copped to smoking weed in college and the story blew up into something that is wasn’t. Next.
And where in the whorld is Whendy Whilliams? The talk show host disappeared from her purple chair back in December.
Here on campus we’ve managed to have some pretty awesome Black History Month programming.
“Young, Black and Educated,” was hosted by Wayne State’s Alpha Eta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority. The forum was designed to allow students to share their experiences with racism on campus.
Maisha Massey, chapter secretary and secondary education major, was instrumental in planning the event. “Going into Black History Month I asked myself, ‘What can give people an opportunity to say what’s on their mind?’”
Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority hosted a black trivia night that featured some of the most difficult trivia questions I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been black since birth. It was nice to learn something new.
“Black History Month is kind of important to me because I’m an African American studies minor,” event host, Alexis Rivera, told me. “Also, we’ve been trying to showcase more information about Afro-Latinos because they’re often overlooked.”
WSU first lady Jacqueline Wilson launched her weekly podcast this month, too. So, it seems that while the rest of the world is one spark away from hell, life at WSU has been fairly balanced.
Black History Month is about celebrating black people. Putting the spotlight on a population often marginalized. Whether they be infamous outlaws, world-renown philanthropists on the unknown community activist. After all, history is written every day.