Maybe we should call it the month of the mini-me.
We are about to step into Black History Month, a time set aside to reflect on the achievements of black Americans in the United States.
There have been many. It is not possible to go from stories such as Henry “Box” Brown in 1849 to the uncharted presidency of Barack Obama in 2008 to what is going on now and not leave a trail of history.
There will be a bunch of events and programs lined up. Politicians will hit the circuit with speeches that rise and fall in timber as they invoke the words of past black leaders about injustice in the American system. Churches will hold services and schools will hold auditorium events. The names of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks will be heard again and again.
There might even be some singing of “We Shall Overcome” or “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the unifying conclusion to some events.
All of this is to recognize black history as an integral part of American history.
Well ... excuse me while I yawn.
I know I am not supposed to say anything bad about a month set aside to celebrate my race, but I hate being politically correct and somebody has got to say it: Black History Month has become a bore. It has turned into a monthlong obligatory snoozefest that — at least in my eyes — cheapens it.
I already know what King said, I already know what Parks did. I already know what the politicians are going to say. I’ve been hearing it for 50-plus years. I don’t see any reason to go to any event that is going to tell it to me again while I sit in an audience clapping on cue with one eye on the clock.
Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy there is a Black History Month, but quite frankly, I don’t need the month to bolster pride in my heritage and if these skimpy presentations are the best we can do, then keep it.
For a month that is set aside to celebrate a people who found a way to be joyous even while enslaved, some of these events will put you to sleep quicker than your head hitting My Pillow.
About the best thing to say about it in its present form is that it comes during the shortest month of the year.
And while I will lift a glass to singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” do we really need to sing “We Shall Overcome?”
I mean, come on; it feels like we’re idling in the 1950s and 1960s and still breathing in the noxious fumes.
And while portions of that history will always hover over black Americans, we forget as the minutes and hours pass, history is being made every day.
That is why — to me — Black History Month shouldn’t be solely about the history of blacks but also about the progression — and more importantly, how we ensure the achievements of that history remains an ongoing tradition.
Each of those black leaders who passed on left us something far more valuable then their speeches and actions. They left behind a lot of mini-mes — which is every black person who reaped rewards from their leadership.
And I choose to honor black leaders by being a mini-me.
That is why I will be at two schools in February taking part in the programs Carter G. Woodson, the father of the month, recognized 93 years ago were important.
While it is instructive to all, Black History Month is important for the kids — and it is time for each mini-me to show up because never before have we been so needed.
Many black kids are growing up under difficult circumstances and our schools are packed with them. They need more than pictures and stories from the past. They may learn about King, Parks and others in school but it is the black people they see every day who are their real leaders and the ones they can connect with.
This is a time when black people can give them a hand and all it will cost them is time. This is a time when nurses, barbers, bus drivers, doctors, lawyers, mailmen, store owners, architects, police and firemen, business people and all the professions that blacks are employed in should contact schools and show up flying the colors of their profession and show a kid all he or she can be.
I think it is pretty obvious they need our help.
It is our job to help them build character and self-esteem no matter their station or limitations. And it can take as little as 30 minutes to plant the seeds of assurance in a child’s mind and change a life.
Black history in America didn’t start with the chopping of a cherry tree but it is a history rich in triumph.
The focus in February will be on the black leaders who have passed on, little-known and well-known. Each left a legacy that helped propel blacks forward, and in that legacy is a message of perseverance — and it is up to today’s black Americans to pass that on.
In a sense, each mini-me is their understudy — and it’s showtime.
Reawakening? Black History Month needs to reconnect.
James Walker is the New Haven Register’s senior editor.