Young black school children don’t learn that our people mapped, calculated and erected
some of the greatest monuments ever, like the pyramids, the sphinx and the obelisks (after which the Washington Monument is modeled) or that our people were literally the lifeblood of some of history’s greatest civilizations. They don’t learn that calculus, trigonometry and geometry all trace their origins back to African
scholars. Black History Month lessons never begin with Haile Selassi I, ruler of Ethiopia, who could trace his ancestry to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and beyond that to Cush in 6280 B.C. Never mind that Selassi actually has the most ancient lineage of any human being in history. Black History Month lessons certainly never begin with one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever known, Hannibal, an African who conquered and extended the rule of the Carthaginian Empire into Italy, Rome and Spain. Most school children (and most adults, truth be told) don’t even know that Carthage, Hannibal’s homeland, is in Africa. The lessons about our history don’t even begin with the kingdoms of Mali, Songhai, Cush or Ghana, all of which rivaled the dominance and territorial acquirement of ancient Greece or Rome. They don’t begin by teaching school children about the ancient Egyptians, who were clearly black Africans and who had arguably the most influential civilization of all time. Ever heard of the Ishango bone? What about
the Lemobo bone? They’re only two of the most important developments in the history of
mathematics. The Lemobo bone, dating back to around 37,000 B.C., was one of the first
calendars ever created and the Ishango bone has been called “The oldest testimonial of
numerical calculus” in human history. Both were created by Africans.

Our history isn’t taught in popular culture and it is conspicuously absent from the history
that most professors in high school classrooms and on college campuses deem to
be important. That’s why Black History Month was created. It wasn’t a chance to glow over
the achievements we’ve heard about time and time again and to recount stories of the Bad
Ol’ Days and what we did to get through. Black History Month was a time to bring to
light the stories of people from Africa who have contributed so much to who and what we
all are today in human society. When Carter G. Woodson created Negro
History Week in 1926, his goal was to teach children and adults throughout the African
Diaspora about the proud history and tradition that Africans have. He wanted to teach young boys and girls in the U.S. and around the world that Africa was and is so much more than people living in huts, hunting antelope and dancing around campfires. He wanted all people to know and understand that being African was not something to be ashamed of, but instead should be a point of pride and exceptionalism.

Woodson, one of the first black men ever to graduate with a Ph.D from Harvard, doing so in 1912, was devoted to teaching all people about the contributions in our society that come from Africa and Africans, and it pains me to say, so far we have failed in his mission. If you don’t believe me, find anyone still in school, I’m talking K-12, and ask them to tell you something about black history that predates the slave trade. During the month of February you can generally count on lessons to begin with some anesthetized retelling of a black historical figure like Frederick Douglass, the great orator who counseled Abraham Lincoln and wrote numerous articulate and effusive tomes about his life as a slave. Or they’ll begin with Abraham Lincoln “freeing” the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation (and will conveniently leave out the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually free any slaves Lincoln had the authority to free and allowed slavery to continue in the Northern states where his words could actually have carried some weight). At most schools you’ll be lucky to get a lesson beyond Martin Luther King’s dream and Rosa Parks’ defiant bus ride. Perhaps some devoted professors will pay a nod to Booker T. Washington or Jackie Robinson or, in recent years, President Barack Obama, but
that seems to be about where it ends. Those people were all luminaries and pioneers,
bellwethers in their fields and certainly worthy of our admiration, but they are not the whole of Black History.

Black History Month is about Mansa Musa, the
King of Mali who extended the empire’s reach into one of the largest on the planet and
imposed the system of provinces and territorial mayors and governors we still use in
the United States today. It’s about Lewis Latimer, the man who invented the filament
that took Thomas Edison’s light bulb into the next century. It’s about Robert Abbott, the
United States’ first black newspaper publisher and one of the nation’s first ever black
millionaires. Black History Month is about Kwame
Nkrumah, Bill Pickett, Imhotep I, Samori Toure, Belva Davis, Crispus Attucks, Dr. Ivan
van Sertima, Fritz Pollard, Stokely Carmichael, Aaron Douglas, Denmark Vesey, Tousaint
L’Ouverture, Nat Turner, Shirley Chisholm, Mae Jemison, Fred Hampton, Scott Joplin,
Ramses II, Zumbi dos Palmares and hundreds of other men and women that you have
probably never heard about. The march from slavery and the Civil Rights
Movement clearly demonstrated the struggle and the power that black people are capable
of, but it’s not all we have contributed to the world. It’s time we used the month of February to extend the dialogue beyond that banal and onto the tremendous accomplishments of Africans throughout history who have
advanced math, music, language, the sciences and so much more for thousands of years.
Then and only then will we truly be celebrating Black History Month.

Having had the wrong kind of education, the Negro has become his own greatest enemy.
Most of the trouble I’ve had in advancing the cause of the race, has come from Negros
There is no doubt that the Negro is his own
greatest enemy. He is jealous of himself, and
envious, and covetous. This accounts for most
of our failures in business, and other
things—–MARCUS GARVEY (from a book
called, Marcus Garvey Life and Lessons)
I was convicted and sent to prison not because I defrauded anyone, but because of
the wicked enemies of my own race. I would not blame the few whites that contributed to
my conviction, neither will I blame the Government. I blame the malicious and
jealous Negros , who for the sake of money will sell their own mothers. My own Black
people lied on me and I was sent to jail for 5 years. Our people are so wicked to
themselves, and they are not satisfied until they are telling the enemies something about
themselves—–MARCUS GARVEY (from the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey)
We must realize that our greatest enemies are not those on the outside, but those in our
midst. When we recognize the enemies on the outside, and do not allow them to pass. Then we have those on the inside working with us to destroy us, without our knowing—–MARCUS GARVEY (from the Philosophy and
Opinions of Marcus Garvey)
I am not discouraged by what has been done to me. It is natural and to be expected. The
enemies that I have are mainly of my own race, and they have worked long and hard to
try and destroy me, but they have only succeeded in arousing the fighting spirit of
millions of black men, all over the world—–
Negros threw eggs at me, when I spoke in New
York —DR. KING (from the Autobiography of
Dr. King) Having to live under the threat of death
everyday, sometimes I feel discouraged. Having to take so much abuse and criticism
from my own people, sometimes I feel discouraged. Having to go to bed often
frustrated with the chilly winds of adversity about to stagger me, sometimes I feel
discouraged and feel like my work is in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul
again—-DR. KING (from the Autobiography
of Dr. King) Those of us who are blazing the way to enlighten our people everywhere, are at times very much annoyed and discouraged by acts of our own people. They do so many things to hurt our feelings of loyalty, and love for the race, but what can we do? Can we forsake them because they hurt our feelings, surely not. Painful though it may be, we must be sympathetic and we must be forgiving. So when that ignorant fellow who happens to be a member of our race, stands up to block some cause that will benefit our people, you will be able to overlook him—–MARCUS GARVEY (from the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey)

I don’t care what people think of me, and I don’t plan on changing. I’ve already been
through too much. I should be dead just from what I went through with dope. I aint scared
of nothing or nobody. I just say what I think, and that bugs people, especially white people. When they look in my eyes and they don’t see fear. They know that it’s a draw.—–MILES DAVIS (interview with Alex Haley) As they say in the old days, I’m not an Uncle Tom. I don’t dance I just do what I do, and I don’t care who like it. I use to get put in jail all of the time, for driving my Ferrari. The police use to stop me and say who car is this, and I asked them who car do you think it is, who do you see driving it ? They would say ok come on, I just refuse to be under anyone, don’t allow anyone to belittle you—MILES DAVIS

“We must teach our children as my elders taught me. You have an enemy. You did not
choose this enemy, it is a function of the order of the universe. This enemy desires your
destruction.”Rev N.O.I Powerful people never teach powerless people
how to take their power away from them. Education is one of the most sensitive arenas
in the life of a people. Its role is to be honest and true: to tell a people where they have been and what they have been, where they are and what they are. Most important, though, the role of education is to tell a people where they still must go and what they still must be. Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in
our communities.

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