I decided early in the year that I didn't want to do anything special for "Black History Month."
For one, Black American history is one of the most important, complex and influential narratives in modern world history and relegating it to one (not to mention the shortest) month is stupid and embarrassing. Second, I write about black culture and history all the time, so why should I pay this arbitrary delineation of time any special attention?
But since it is the end of the longer period—from Martin's birthday to the end of February—where we spend more time than usual considering the stories of those in the African diaspora, I want to share something special with you.
We all know about the tumult that this country was in back in 1968. Many of us know about the assassination of Dr. King in April, the riots in major black cities that ensued and how James Brown allegedly "saved Boston". Some weeks later Brown wrote, recorded and released "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)".
There is a recorded performance of the song from Dallas, TX dated 8/26/1968. On this recording James makes a mad powerful statement in introducing the song:
"You know, one way of solving a lot of problems that we've got in this country is letting a person feel that they are important, feel that they are somebody. And a man can't get himself together until he knows who he is and be proud of what and who he is and what he comes from.There is the entire essence of the Soul Pride movement right there, deflation of tension through self-respect, self-expression and civil communication, instead of Uncle Tom-ing, intimidation and/or race baiting.
Now I just recorded a tune called, 'Say it Loud. I'm Black and I'm Proud.' Now if a man is not proud of who he is or what he comes from, he's not a man. So I want each and everyone to understand, this tune is for the good of what it means and what it can do for a man's self-pride.
Now the black and the white that are in the audience, I want you to do this for me: I want the black to sing the song and at the end of the song where the black says, 'I'm black,' I want everyone to say 'I'm proud.' Alright?"
Check it out for yourself with the links below, and pay particular attention to how much louder the audience is yelling "I'm proud" than they are yelling "I'm black".
Respect over fear. It's a beautiful thing.
INTRODUCTION TO "SAY IT LOUD"
"SAY IT LOUD (I'M BLACK AND I'M PROUD) [Live in Dallas 8/26/1968]"