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Black History Month At Home

Yesterday evening I took the family to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was opening night/family night at the Fox Theatre and the place was packed. A record 4,200 were in attendance not only to see the first performance of a 4 day run here in the ATL, but also to witness history in the making --- 50 years of Revelations (the show's finale) and the last run of Judith Jamison, the heralded artistic director of the troupe after Alvin Ailey himself. She is retiring this year.

As my daughter bounced about on my lap, my wife sat beside me smiling and moving in her seat, and my son sat there begrudgingly appreciating the dancer's energy, I was reminded of my own past.

I've been going to see the Alvin Ailey Dancers since before I high school. I can't remember the exact why and how of it, but I know it was a school based activity that became an annual past-time for me up through high school. I've never had any qualms about men in tights. I think I was always to rapt with thoughts of "How are they holding themselves (or their partners) like that?" and "Damn, that dude is ripped." Because just in case you didn't know dancers are some of the most sculpted people walking the planet, right up there with gymnasts and swimmers. Watching them makes the average grunting gym rat feel silly for putting in so much time pumping iron while these people simply move their bodies with absolute precision and wind up looking like superheroes. This includes the women also.

As I watched I couldn't help but think back fondly on my own childhood being reared to know most if not all who preceded me. Inventors, artists, scientists, all lined the walls of my home. One of my uncle's was nationally renowned in the arts --- a sculptor, painter, and photographer. He actually designed the logo for the United Negro College Fund, something I never knew until his passing.

365 Days of Black History
Fisk University, 1900Back then many were raised with the idea that there was more to life than being a professional athlete or a rapper. The influence of pop media culture didn't drown out the rule and final say of parents. It didn't even exist not too long ago. And for the kids who were being reared this way, we believed what we were being told. One of the best basketball players I knew growing up is a successful doctor in Chicago. One of the fastest track athletes who I had the agony of running alongside in high school is an architect. I took a liking to inventors and to this day I know who invented what, regardless of whether they got credit for it or not in a school text book. My father saw to it that I was informed. Black History Month was a formality, a highlighted 28 days of the 365 that were a part of my daily existence.

Black History month is more than some smattering of Martin Luther King, Jr. audio and video clips. It's Charles Drew, Benjamin Banneker, Elijah McCoy (the "Real McCoy"), Madame C.J. Walker - the original "Mary K.", William Purvis who invented the fountain pen, all the way up to most recently, Lonnie Johson - A ROCKET SCIENTIST - who created the "Super Soaker" a favorite at most summer time barbecues.

Black History Month for me is all about letting the little ones know who proceeded them so they know that they can do it too and do it in their own unique way, especially when someone else (no matter their color) tells them they can't or tries to laugh at their ideas. Beginning next week I am going to highlighting some of these people of my past, as they are an integral part of all our pasts and existences here in these United States of America and abroad.

Enjoy your weekend! If you haven't yet considered doing anything anything with the family for these short 28 days of Black History Month, check your local paper for some local happenings, turn on PBS and make the family sit down in front of the television for an hour or two, or check out the resources available online such as Biography Channel's Black History Month website. And as always please feel free to share your thoughts, comments or questions in the comments.

2nd Photo Description & Credit: Senior Class, Fisk University, 1900, by Black History Album.

E.Payne is the author of Investing In An Emotional Letdown and I Didn't Invented Sex. For the past 3 years he has posted 600+ articles about fatherhood, marriage and everything in between here at Makes Me Wanna Holler.com. To learn more, click here.

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