by Marian Banks-Nickleberry, MA
The month of February is celebrated as African American/Black History month and has continued to be a topic of both celebration and criticism. During this month African Americans are mentioned, celebrated, seen and heard. For some it is also a time of reflection, a time to think about the continued need to have a separate month dedicated to the achievements of African Americans. Some people argue that African Americans are first and foremost Americans, and that their history should be intricately woven into the American experience. Most recently, the question of the inclusion of African Americans hit popular culture smack in the face, when the Academy Awards program was heavily criticized for not having African Americans other people of color represented in nominations for movies, directors, actors and actresses for the second year in a row.
Years ago when these oversights--or some would say slights--were the norm, African Americans created separate or-ganizations to highlight African American directors, actors and actresses, scientists and business people, and pay tribute to their accomplishments. Thus came the Black Entertainment (BET) and the Essence Awards shows.