I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.

Good afternoon!

So, this weeks update is going to be light, as I’m now in the middle of outlining and plotting, so there isn’t really a whole lot to, you know, update you on. It’s mostly just slog work at the moment.

Instead, I want to talk about Black History Month, both it’s successes and it’s failures.

First, the failures:

  1. It’s too damn short. It is and you know it. One month isn’t nearly enough time to cover the entire history of black people in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, never mind the entire province or country. And forget the states entirely.
  2. Black History Month lends itself to the Great Man style of history. And admittedly, I’m not helping by using quotes as my titles, even if they are from genuine bona fide heroes like Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass. At lot of this has to do with how short it is: a biography of a person is a lot easier to condense into a single month than the complex socio-political-economics that first created the slave trade and then ended it. That is not to say that these heroes do not deserve recognition; rather in order to understand just what made them such great heroes in the first place we must understand the world they were born into, the world that changed them, and the world that they changed.

Secondly, the triumphs:

  1. It is a month, a whole solid month dedicated to one single historical topic. That’s it, but it’s a damn sight better than most history we get. History today, especially in Alberta, is watered-down white-washed pap that conforms to easy to sell narratives that fit people’s political agendas rather than delving into the glorious complexity of human life. Black History Month, and its compatriots like Asian Heritage Month, while not doing nearly enough to counter the devaluation of history rampant throughout our political sphere, but they are a start.
  2. History, fundamentally, is a good thing worth studying. It helps teach us empathy and counter false narratives, like the anti-Semitic, nativist, Islamphobic, blatant falsehoods currently being spewed from the White House of Donald Trump. Or the blatant American exceptionalism of Noam Chomsky, which denies the agency of thousands of nations.
  3. Black History Month celebrates black culture and history, and that too is fundamentally a good thing. To celebrate one’s culture is inherently good; it encourages empathy with a set group, transmits history both good and bad and for those of mixed heritages allows them to reach into and understand all aspects of their past and the world around them. But for a marginalized culture? The affects are not only amplified within that marginalized culture, but help break down the chains of hatred and fear that marginalized them in the first place, both within themselves and within the marginalizing culture. And brother, have black people ever been marginalized.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the flaws and strengths of Black History Month, but it hopefully gives you an idea of why BHM is not the end of our celebration and study of black history, but a platform from which we must expand aggressively.  It is history, our study and understanding of it, that will allow us to thwart the falsehoods and resurrection of Naziism that has come to characterize the Presidency of Donald Trump and his white nationalist allies such as Bannon.

I’ll see you all next week!

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