"What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?" asked Frederick Douglass of the crowd gathered at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, N.Y., on July 5, 1852. "I answer," he continued, "a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which lie is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham."
I am frustrated with Black History Month (Mois de l'histoire des Noirs) this year. I feel overwhelmed by the newspaper features, TV specials, artworks and concerts in "celebration" of black history. And, as a black woman of Jamaican parentage, and a scholar of Canadian history, I find myself questioning the direction Black History Month is going. Even though it is recognized on a national level, it has remained a series of local events and remembrances, and I'm wondering, how did we get here and is it time to rethink Black History Month?
A lot of people seem to think that because there isn’t obvious, tangible, see-it-from-a-mile-away slavery happening in their own neighbourhoods, that type of oppression is a thing of the past. But the reality is that slavery is very much alive and well in many parts of the world – including North America.
Even more than that, you help to sustain those systems of slavery. That’s right – you. Check out this cool interactive site that shows your “slavery footprint.” There’s an awesome 11-step questionnaire that gathers information about various aspects of your life and practices and produces the number of slaves working for you.
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"Who owns history? Not even the ones who made it." Kumasi, Black August Organizing Committee
Black History Month must be updated for the 21st century. February should be the month that we re-double our struggle against imperialism and white supremacy, and for reparations for slavery, the slave trade and colonialism.
There is only one political prisoner in the United States who openly identifies as a feminist and ecosocialist. His name is Russell Maroon Shoatz. He was a member of the Black Unity Council and the Black Panthers. He has been in prison for the past 40 years and for the last 20 he has been in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution.
An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln
Marx did not support the North because he believed that its victory would directly lead to socialism. Rather, he saw in South and North two species of capitalism — one allowing slavery, the other not. The then existing regime of American society and economy embraced the enslavement of four million people whose enforced toil produced the republic’s most valuable export, cotton, as well as much tobacco, sugar, rice, and turpentine. Defeating the slave power was going to be difficult. The wealth and pride of the 300,000 slaveholders (there were actually 395,000 slave owners, according to the 1860 Census, but at the time Marx was writing this had not yet been published) was at stake.
A few years ago a group of us went on a visit to "Ile de Gorée" -- the island was a sunlit 20-minute ferry ride off the coast of Dakar, Senegal. When reaching the shore, my first impression was that we had reached a tropical oasis: brightly coloured pink, brown and yellow buildings, children running along the dock, and vendors selling carved, rotund, wooden hippos. Within a 15-minute walk we came to a church and the guide informed us in elegant French, "In 1992 Pope John Paul II came here and asked for forgiveness."