The reader and the writer. Two sides of the same coin. Pardon, the same page. Relationship status: It’s complicated since only one gets to state what’s on their mind. Thus, it’s only fair to talk back via text. Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964) may be long gone from this world, but her literature endures as an eternal message. And so does the question how an atheist-by-conviction connects to Catholic O’Connor’s Southern Gothic religious themes.
It’s that time of year again. February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month. Before I suggest some useful resources, let’s briefly look at its origins.
Fact 1: The United States is not the only country to officially celebrate it. In addition to our neighbors to the North, who also celebrate this time of remembrance in February, the Irish and the United Kingdom observe Black History Month in October.
Fact 2: The roots of Black History Month in the U.S. can be traced back to historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, who together marked the second week of February – which coincides with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday – as Negro history week in 1926.
Fact 3: Even the Great Emancipator had his failures, and so it’s undoubtedly best that in 1969 students at Kent State moved to celebrate the contributions and culture of Black Americans for an entire month, instead of placing President Lincoln, who upheld the mass public hanging of 38 Dakota Sioux on December 26, 1862, in the center of their celebrations.
So, if your school has never celebrated Black History Month before, it’s never too late to get on that ‘soul train’. And since we didn’t want to leave you in the lurch, we’ve provided a list of some suitable blogs we’ve published over the years on subjects, ranging from cultural icons, such as Aretha Franklin, Don Cornelius, and Beyoncé, to best books and fabulous films dealing with Black identity and history. You’ll also find information on some current controversies:
Confession time: I like country music. And no, I’m not being facetious. And no, not just the alternative kind. Gimme a steel guitar, a banjo, and a slow southern drawl, and I’m jammin’. When I put on the New Boots playlist, however, I do get looks ranging from disbelief to slightly annoyed to amused. Not that the reaction surprises me. As is the nature of stereotypes, there is some truth to them, but they also don’t cover all of the vast cornfield called country music. And honestly, you don’t have to strain your ears (pun intended) to pick up on all there is to hear.
“I wanna move ’em back to the country.
I don’t care what they do to us.
I won’t raise my family here.”
The 2016 arthouse film Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols, has already run one hour and nine minutes before Mildred Loving expresses her unwillingness to comply with the court sentence that forbids the family to reside in their home state of Virginia. Her decision sets them on a path of no return. The route takes their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Loving v. Virginia will pave the way toward freely marrying, living, and loving for interracial couples in the United States (for couples, which fit hetero- and cisnormative standards, that is.) At first glance, the desire to return to Virginia might appear at odds with the violently hateful treatment Mildred and Richard Loving experienced at the hands of Virginian authorities amidst betrayal by one of their neighbors. At second glance, however, the film shows that the Lovings’ love for their home and home state is as much a driving force behind the struggle for equal rights as is their love for each other.
Mildred’s final decision to return to Virginia follows after their child Don is hit by a car in the busy Washington neighborhood. One of the most action-driven scenes in the otherwise strikingly calm and quiet movie, Don’s accident serves as the final tipping point, initiating the long journey of the Loving v. Virginia court case.
Americans do not vote directly for their presidents. We vote for the people who will vote for our presidents. Each state is assigned electors, based partly on population, but each state is assigned an additional two electoral votes, regardless of its size. Consequently, a vote from a person in a rural state has more influence than a vote from an urbanized area. This system has given us five presidents who came in second in the people’s vote with mixed results. Three have made us question this system. With Rutherford Hayes, we got Jim Crow law that denied African Americans their civil rights for more than 100 years. With George W. Bush, we got the Iraq war. With Donald Trump, well, we got – Trump!
It’s been nearly 52 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Without a doubt, he continues to inspire new generations and serve as a role model for non-violent protest and change. In honor of Black History Month in February, I’d like to review a young adult novel that brings the conversation on racism and growing up Black in the United States to a new level. It investigates whether King’s teachings are still relevant today and whether they can help Jystice, a 17-year-old, promising high school student. His life is turned upside down when he tries to help his intoxicated ex-girlfriend get home safely one night. In a confrontation with two police officers, Jystice ends up on the ground in handcuffs – an all-too-familiar sight. The problem: She’s White and he’s Black. As a result of the assault, Jystice will never be the person he once was.
Nic Stone’s debut novel, Dear Martin (2017), interweaves the topics of racial profiling, police brutality, blackface, colorblind racism, micro-aggressions, and acting ‘White’ with questions of identity, friendship, and interracial relationships. With that list, you might just ask yourself how the author still manages to tell a good story without getting too distracted and preachy. Well, she does. But before exploring the topic further, I’ll let Nic Stone introduce the book in her own words.