By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on February 28, 2023
This is the last day of Black History Month. In the current political climate, the mere celebration of black history in America is under an unrelenting political attack.
In a growing number of “Red” states, the act of preserving, teaching, and celebrating black history is considered a form of “wokeness,” which must be condemned, stopped, and outlawed.
"Wokeness" is the quality of being alert to and concerned about social injustices and discrimination based upon race, gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) is leading the attack against "wokeness."
Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) is leading the attack against African-American studies programs in public schools because they “lack educational value.”
Just when we thought it could not get any worse, we learned earlier this month that student leaders at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama were told by an administrator that their planned Black History Month program should steer clear of civil rights era figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. They were also discouraged from focusing on major historical events like slavery and Reconstruction.
Ms. Jamiyah Brown, a senior at Hillcrest who helped to plan the Black History Month program, said she was told by a white administrator that the students should include more “current” black figures, “like Beyoncé,” in the program, and that “old stuff” made people feel uncomfortable. The administrator reportedly stated that the school's Black History Month event shouldn’t mention figures before 1970.
After Ms. Brown spoke out about the school’s efforts to limit and censure the content of the planned program, school administrators threatened to expel her if she participated in it.
The program proceeded, as planned. However, Ms. Brown, who led a student walkout over the administration’s effort to whitewash the black history program, was forced to watch it from the audience.
The Power of Our Social Media Platforms
I know Facebook and other social media platforms were originally conceived as tools for social media and private networking. To a large extent, they still are. Over the past ten years, however, I have discovered that these platforms have another, perhaps even more important, use.
With the ongoing and rapidly spreading political movement to attack “wokeness” in all forms, it is important that we record, tell, and celebrate the history of blacks in America, using these readily available social media platforms.
Social media can be the ultimate tool for blacks wanting to write, publish and distribute articles about issues of importance to us. Never before have blacks had the means to get important socio-economic messages out to the world at-large. Social media is the only vehicle that is readily available to those of us who want to be heard on an unfiltered and uncensored basis.
Today, blacks in America can paint a true self-portrait through articles and stories authored by us and published for the world to read and appreciate.
In the past, we had no voice to address the insensitive and often demeaning portrayal of blacks by the mainstream media. Even when we spoke, our voices were rarely heard by the masses. When we were heard, the writers and journalists who saw our plight through the lens of their racially different and often more privileged life experiences were usually the ones telling our stories.
Like the school administrators at Hillcrest High School, the white-controlled media, in large part, often determined what was reported about us, how it was reported, and what they deemed to be the truth.
The emergence of social media has changed that paradigm. Now, we can present the black experience in America to the world on an uncensored, realistic, and real-time basis. We can also publish and share the stories that impact us the most and do so in our own words.
There are no page limits for our social media articles. There is no need for us to plead with insensitive reporters or biased editors to tell our story correctly. There are no geographic limits with respect to the distribution or circulation of our articles and stories. There is no need to seek sponsors or advertisers to cover the costs of writing, publishing, and distributing our stories because everything is online and free. Finally, there is no longer a need for us to depend upon traditional media outlets to paint an accurate picture of black life in America; we can do this for ourselves on social media.
At last, we have a voice, and it is a powerful one at that. Nobody -- not even the Ron DeSantises and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world -- can ever silence our voices again.
Social media is our version of the free press. We should use it wisely, often, and responsibly.