Author: Brennan E. Wells;
How will you spend Black History Month? This is a question I ask myself and now to you, the reader. Truly ask yourself, how will you spend Black History Month? In my younger years, I was often regaled of individuals from generations of yesteryear conveying to me all of the sacrifices that those who came before me made so that I could enjoy all that I did and do. At that point in time in my life, that was enough for me. To know that someone sacrificed for me, yet would not get the chance to know me felt like love, thus I dived deep in pro-black activities, whether that be church programs, homework assignments where I chose the subject matter or protest marches. Now that I have grown older, those same conversations do not hold the same weight that they once did. And now I look for new inspiration on how I should best be unapologetically Black during Black History Month and I found it three years ago while in conversation with a White young lady in the Library of Congress.
There are some that may not know, but I often asked students, friends, and strangers at my former institution of higher learning, Prairie View A&M (PVAMU), why did you come to PVAMU? This was a burning question on my mind because the more I learned about PVAMU, the more I wondered, what could attract people here. Answers to my questions often revolved around the cheap price of tuition, PVAMU being located close the Houston Metroplex, or it was a safety school, that quickly became a “first choice”. And rarely, I would hear from students, friends, and strangers, that they arrived at PVAMU because they wanted a “black experience”.
Strangely enough, the individuals who sought a “black experience” came from states far away, where I presume the “culture” was lacking. And to that end, these were the same individuals who dared return the question back to me. I answer to you, as I answer to them, that I went to PVAMU, because, justice, freedom, equity, equality and the truth brought me. Just as Dr. King, went to Montgomery for similar reasons. Hindsight is always 20/20, so suffice it say at the time my answers were not as concise as they are now, yet it all came together in time. The pentacle of that crystallization seeped into my consciousness with a chance conversation in the Library of Congress.
A jewel of past is that one of my internships was in the United States House of Representatives. This may not be so hidden, but not too many know that this was my first internship. While in the midst of this life changing experience, there was a celebration of a piece of landmark legislation that had an uplifting effect upon Black America. This commemoration event took place in the Library of Congress. Many faces came to attend, after all, this was Washington D.C. and an open bar had been arranged.Myself as an intern, my incentive in going was one, free food (interns are lowly paid if at all) and it was a chance to network.
After the pomp and circumstance had ended and the food set up for consumption I met with a young White lady who expressed to me, who she was, why she was there, and what she was about. In the midst of learning more about this young lady, she mentioned how she had returned from Africa (The Motherland) while working on an aid mission. Moreover, she was still in college studying African/African-American history. It was then it dawned on me, that no one dared to ask her, “what can you do with a degree in AA history”. She was allowed to decide for herself what held value, and for this White young lady, it was the history of my people.
Myself, I tried not to show my surprise in her decision, rather I chose to digest all that I just heard. Some people while in the act of living discover their purpose and mission in life, while others it takes more time. It was moments like these that cemented my life’s missions and aspirations. Not merely, because of what this young lady spoke to me, but rather what she said shook loose the hold indifference had upon me. Not too much longer, The Atlantic released its study on “The Case for Reparations”. It was as if these events were lined up for my benefit. If it was not a certainty then, surely it was after that conversation my politicization for the benefit of Black America was an absolute in my life.
At the conclusion of my internship and my return to PVAMU refreshed and renewed I quickly ascertained that not many shared this mission, point of view, or selflessness for Black America. Hence, my questions about why attend an HBCU if not to learn about your people, while being amongst your people. And I mean really learn about David Walker, Patrice Lumumba, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the countless others who dot Black History.
With Black History Month right around the corner, I ask you the reader…. How will you spend Black History Month? With a Republican Congress, White House, State Governorships and States Houses highly evident, we have nothing to lose but our chains. For me, it took a chance conversation with someone else for me find a never-ending supply of inspiration for how I will spend Black History Month and every other month for that fact. Yet I worry, how my sisters and brothers will spend Black History Month and every other month for that matter. For myself, I will continue my research, writing, mentoring, service to the community, obtaining an advanced degree and political organizing. But the question still remains, how will you spend Black History Month?