Black History Month 2017 has already gotten off to a dubious start, at least in Washington. Not that this is very surprising. Within that rambling mess of a speech you may note that the specific names mentioned are the names we always hear during February’s festivities–King, Parks, Tubman, Douglass–names that reflect the narrowness of most Black History teachings. Most white people (and, sadly, far too many Black people and other POC) will only hear about Slavery and The Civil Rights Struggle as if these are the only two significant periods in Blackness and as if the people associated with those eras are the only people worth remembering. This is bullshit, of course. Let’s change that.
The Tempest Challenge has been on a hiatus, and the vids will continue to be as I work out what I want to do with that project over the long term. For this, though, I don’t need vids, just a blog.
Here’s what I challenge you to do every day during the month of February: Read something by a Black person that isn’t only about pre-Civil War American slavery, the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Era.
Read fiction, non-fiction, articles, letters, whatever, as long as it’s written by a Black person. Don’t limit your definition of Black Person to African-Americans. Black covers the African diaspora and writers currently in Africa and is not limited to people descended from those brought to the Americas as slaves.
This month I or someone who is awesome will offer you suggestions for what to read. Feel free to drop your own suggestions in the comments. Use the #TempestChallenge hashtag on Twitter or Instagram to share your favorite reads.
To get us started, my first suggestion is The Space Traders, a short story by Derrick Bell. You can read it online or you can pick up a copy of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora and read it there.
There are two pieces of fiction that so effected me that they jacked me up for years after reading them. The first was Kindred by Octavia Butler. The other is The Space Traders. Thought they’re very different stories, the reason they jacked me up so hard is the same. They are both so true that it scared me as a Black person. With Kindred, I easily pictured myself as Dana and thought about what would happen to me if I found myself in her position. I didn’t think I would have survived. It scared me to think that. With The Space Traders, I pondered what would happen if the incident that kicks off the story happened in America right then (I first read this in the early 2000s when Bush 2 was in office) and realized that it would play out as written, which was an upsetting thought.
Bell published this story in 1992. One might have been lulled into thinking that it wasn’t prophetic during the eight years Obama was in office. I challenge anyone to read that story today and tell me that it’s not entirely possible.
If you don’t think so, then you don’t know your Black History.