I can't believe it's returned so soon, but time flies when you're being black. So, to America and all who watch us, Happy Black History Month!
Most are familiar with the annual ritual by this point: public figures speak respectfully of African-American contributions to the latter half of our hyphenated identities; Corporate America embraces 12.85 percent of the population by using images of our most prominent historical figures to endorse its products; schools and community centers adjust their programming, and there is a measurable increase in the level of blackness nationwide.
I've been invited to participate in this tradition in a small way here at Huffington Post where I'll be acting as guest book editor to help profile works by or about black people. Over the coming weeks, these pages will feature guest blogs by a variety of black literary voices as well as my own recommended reading lists.
Despite the innocent yet ignorant expectations of non-black schoolmates from my past, I cannot speak for all black people, so along with my own experience, I'll be employing the recommendations of others in helping craft this month's suggestions. These will be personal and professional connections, the community over at Jack & Jill Politics (where I blog) and of course, Facebook and Twitter (where I live).
These recommendations are a work in progress, but I can guarantee that I'll use my modest influence (they refused to change the name of the site to The Blackington Post) to touch on the following themes:
Comedy & Satire: Seeing the ways in which black people have responded to our situation in this country through humor is one of the things that inspired me to pursue comedy in the first place. Whether in response to struggle or as an expression of joy, the use of comedy and satire by black Americans is worthy of attention. Really though, I just look forward to recommending Dick Gregory's book "Nigger". I want to make white people buy, but not reference out loud, a book called "Nigger".
The Diaspora: One of the first books I owned as a child was called "Africa Is A Continent, Not A Country". As most-recently evidenced by the amount of uninformed commentary related to Haiti's history, we could all use a better understanding of the history and experiences of people of African descent around the world. While Black History Month is technically an American phenomenon, a more global perspective is essential to understanding our domestic realities.
Post-Post-Racial: When Barack Obama was elected president, it was the not-so-silent hope of many that the moment represented the end of race as a key determinant of outcomes in this country. Since then, Chris Matthews may have experienced momentary racial amnesia, but there's no doubt that the election of America's first half-black president is having an effect, if not on outcomes, at least on the way we have started to talk about race.
Please check back often, and if you have your own recommendations, please leave them in the comments here or post to Twitter with the hashtag #AfAmBooks
Follow Baratunde Thurston on Twitter: www.twitter.com/baratunde