The narrative of history depends upon who is telling the story. The narrative of Black History Month is rarely told by Blacks.
Every year, we are told the same stories about the same people. Much of America has grown comfortable with telling the “safe” stories. During the month of February, we are constantly reminded of how slavery is an integral part of our heritage. Nobody wants to tell the honest story of what happened to Black America.
Many of the stories told during Black History Month are traumatic experiences that have residual effects. The notion of Black History Month is divisive in nature. BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY.
The fact is that society has normalized division and continues to plague us as a human race. If we are a part of history, why is it that we only celebrate the impact and accomplishments of Black Americans during the shortest month of the year? Black people are making history every day. No disrespect to those who have came before us, but we must give people their flowers while they are able to smell them.
There are people in the community that have made history right here in the city of Fayetteville. For instance, Marshall Pitts is the first Black mayor of Fayetteville.
2020, which Christian Mosley calls “The Black Year,” revealed the true history of American society. The chants of protesters unearthed the time capsule of America’s attitude towards the Black community.
Black History Month stories romanticize the lives of people like Martin Luther King Jr., even though he was hated, jailed and even killed for his beliefs and thoughts. However, American society celebrates his legacy as if he was beloved when he was alive.
The social justice movement of today mirrors the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Advances in technology have allowed activists to tell their stories in real-time. However, the world has become so sensitive that the truth is frowned upon or silenced.
Sometimes, history can be divisive. The conversation surrounding the history of the Market House continues to be as polarizing as the paint that circles the structure. Throughout the last year, we have seen the removal of statues deemed to be “hateful” or “symbols of oppression.” On the opposing side, some argue that the monuments represent “pride” and “celebrates heritage.”
The Market House continues to divide our city. The mural was done as the city’s way to further the message of the City Council of 1989 that is engraved on a plaque attached to a pillar under the structure. The 1989 City Council acknowledged the trauma associated with the building. The message reads: “In memory and honor of those indomitable people who were stripped of their dignity when sold as slaves at this place.”
The removal and re-installment of the mural has been a hot topic. Rather than keep focusing on the structure or the mural, the city should appreciate Collyn Strother and Malcolm Chester. These two young men worked tirelessly to create a piece that symbolizes unity and inclusion.
But, there is a difference between diversity and inclusion. Fayetteville prides itself on diversity, but the city is not very inclusive. Diversity invites people to the table, but inclusion empowers your voice to be heard while you’re at the table. The person who came up this this quote must have been referencing the way the “system” panders to young Black America.
Recently, I sat with the group of artists under the Market House and discussed the role of art in the social justice movement. The common consensus among the group is the role of the artist is to bring the truth to the forefront. The group went on to express how nothing can replace the original feeling of initially completing the project. The group of artists are the truest definition of unity. They all represented different walks of life but came together for a common goal. By painting the mural, they were able to create progressive conversation around the Market House.
However, it is time for some new Black History. Much of my generation are natural born American citizens. Therefore, we should be celebrated like all other Americans that have changed the narrative.
In addition, we must stop covering up the truth like Collyn had to cover up the “peace sign” and “fist of solidarity” he had painted on the North and South exits of the traffic circle. Moments later, he received a call saying that he had to cover the symbols. The fact that those symbols had to be covered is another sign that society is not ready to accept its faults.
Once we open and honestly address the issues of racial inequality, we will be able to move forward as a unit like this group of artists have done. They are the epitome of unity and inclusion. They are what America should be modeled after.
Our exchange under the Market House was extremely refreshing. As a society, we must choose CONVERSATION OVER CONFRONTATION and LEAD WITH LOVE. Salute to Collyn and Malcolm.
Salute to every activist getting active. Happy Black History Month. Peace.
Pictured: Artist Collyn Strother paints over a peace symbol that was part of the mural circling the Market House in downtown Fayetteville.