No watermelon for Black History Month

Plans to celebrate Black History Month with a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon have been canceled at a Christian girls school in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Principal Nancy Libby sent an apology letter to parents and held an assembly to discuss the issue.

“Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these are stereotypes of black Southern culture that come from the same place where the N-word comes from,” said University of San Francisco Professor James Taylor. 

After the menu drew complaints, Libby consulted with Black Student Union members on campus. They nixed the watermelon,  but it looks like fried chicken and cornbread are off the menu too.

Kindergarteners chant paean to Obama

As part of a Black History Month program, kindergarteners at Tipps Elemementary School in Houston were sent home with lyrics to a chant lauding Barack Obama, reports The Blaze. It includes “Barack Obama is the man” and “He’s our man, yes we can!” A note to teachers said students would be “required” to learn the chant, though the school claims only some students were chosen for the evening program and parents could refuse to sign a permission  form.

Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo, a syndicated radio host, publicized the chant after receiving a complaint from a parent. It’s fine to be proud that Obama is the first black president, but children shouldn’t be forced to “genuflect” before him, the radio host wrote in a letter to the principal.

“The Barack Obama Song,” which prioritizes rhyme over substance, does have a sort of North Korean enthusiasm for every aspect of our president’s life.

Who is our 44th President?
Obama is our 44th President
Who is a DC resident?
Obama is a DC resident
Resident, President

Who’s favorite team is the Chicago White Sox?
Obama’s favorite team is the Chicago White Sox
Who really thinks outside the box?
Obama really thinks outside the box
Outside the box, Chicago White Sox
Resident, President

Who really likes to play basketball?
Obama really likes to play basketball
Who’s gonna answer our every call?
Every Call, Basketball
Outside the box, Chicago White Sox
Resident, President

Who’s famous slogan is Yes we can?
Obams’s famous slogan is Yes we can
Who do we know is the man?
Barack Obama is the man
He’s our man, Yes we can!

And it goes on and on. I wonder how they get little kids to learn all that, even with a teacher doing the first line of every stanza.

In my kindergarten days, we’d never be asked to learn more than four lines. And our parents would have complained about a program in which public school students proclaimed:

We like Ike.
He took Allied Forces on a European hike.
He likes to play golf, but doesn’t bike.
Ike, hike, bike
We like Ike.

We did learn: “If your Mommy is a Commie, then you gotta turn her in,” but not in class.

Banned in Connecticut

For fear of “the n-word,” a Connecticut superintendent has banned a play by a leading black playwright, reports the New York Times. August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” was selected by drama teacher Nina Smith at the Waterbury Arts Magnet School.  In addition to going through the normal channels for approval, she read the play to parents of the mostly black cast and discussed its language with the principal and with a former president of the Waterbury NAACP.

“Joe Turner,” about the big dreams and tumultuous lives of the residents of a Pittsburgh boarding house, drew critical acclaim for both its first Broadway run, in 1988, and a revival there in 2009. It is widely considered one of the best plays in Wilson’s cycle of 10 works about the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century; Wilson died in 2005.

Smith “prepared a study guide for classes to talk about the play, and was organizing post-performance talkbacks so the cast and audience members could discuss the work,”  according to the Times.

“Joe Turner” was chosen for performance in February to celebrate black history month. After seven years, the magnet school has students with the maturity to do the play, Smith said. There are enough black actors to fill the roles.

Superintendent David Snead, who’s black, banned the play. However, the Waterbury school board will consider a new policy for school plays on Tuesday, according to the  Republican-American.

History isn't a parade of heroes

It’s time to end Black History Month, writes Jonathan Zimmerman, a NYU history and education professor, in Education Week. He’s responding to the story about the LA elementary teachers who let students carry photos of O.J. Simpson, RuPaul and Dennis Rodman in a Black History Month parade. (The three teachers were suspended for three days and reassigned to new schools.)

. . . reducing history to a cavalcade of heroes put each one above reproach, giving Black History Month a quasi-religious character. It also spawned ridiculous debates about which deities should be admitted to the temple. The Los Angeles school parade saluted Michael Jackson alongside King, Tubman, and Nelson Mandela. Was Jackson — an accused child molester — a “great” African-American? Who cares?

Worst of all, Black History Month let the rest of the school year off the hook. By isolating black history in a single month, Americans could effectively ignore it at most other times.

Nice idea. It’s about as likely to happen as O.J. catching the “real killer.”

Teachers suspended for O.J. Simpson picture

Three Los Angeles teachers have been suspended for giving elementary students pictures of  O.J. Simpson, RuPaul and Dennis Rodman to carry in a Black History Month parade.

(A district spokeswoman) says the school held the parade Friday, with children from other classes carrying photos of black heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman and President Barack Obama.

The teachers are white. More than 90 percent of Wadsworth Elementary students are Hispanic.

It’s not “Black Hagiography Month, writes Joel Engel in LA Times Magazine. The parade signs have “sparked outrage from no less than Mayor Villaraigosa and district superintendent Ramon Cortines, who dispatched “a human relations and ethnic diversity team.”

Anyone who was sentient during the O.J. Simpson trial remembers how the former football great and not so great actor was embraced as a symbol of oppression by the black community — his acquittal celebrated by dancing in the streets. In fact, Mount Vernon Middle School was renamed the Johnnie L. Cochran Junior Middle School in honor of Simpson’s lead lawyer, who shot to fame by convincing the jury that Simpson was a victim.

If we’re being politically correct, why is a gay superstar as unworthy as an unconvicted murderer.  Is Rodman’s sexuality — he called himself “mentally bisexual” — unacceptable? What if a student had carried a picture of Bayard Rustin, the gay civil rights leader?

Black History Month: Is it obsolete?

Is it time for Black History Month to fade into history? Some say devoting February to African-American history is outdated, reports AP.

“If Obama’s election means anything, it means that African-American history IS American history and should be remembered and recognized every day of the year,” says Stephen Donovan, a 41-year-old lawyer.

. . . Yemesi Oyeniyi, a 40-year-old stay-at-home mother, says that Black History Month feels like it’s only for blacks, “and therefore fails to educate the masses of non-blacks.”

“I mean, now there is a Hispanic History Month and quite honestly I haven’t paid more attention to the history of Spanish-speaking Americans any more now than I have in the past,” she says. “I think it all should be taught collectively — every month.”

Others say we still need a special focus on black history.

Women’s history has a month too. I think it’s March.