Although Shukree Hassan Tilghman begins More Than A Month with the goal of ending Black History Month, by the end of the documentary he has developed a more nuanced approach to celebrating and acknowledging the history of African Americans.
After viewing the film at KCPT’s February Community Cinema event, many attendees seemed to share Tilghman’s conflicted feelings about the month.
Dr. Doretha Williams, who is the executive director of the Black Archives of Mid-America helped facilitate discussion about the film and the role of Black History Month in our community and schools. Like Tilghman, Williams, who grew up in Topeka, KS, says that she has happy childhood memories of Black History Month. “I remember dressing up as and playing Harriet Tubman and leading the other kindergartners to freedom,” said Williams.
Black Archives of Mid-America Executive Director Doretha Willams leads discussion of the film More Than a Month.
Discussion topics ranged from how history is recounted and by whom to the inevitable consequence of corporate and commercial use of Black History Month.
Here are some of the comments and reactions of those that attended:
-Perhaps Black History is hard for people to incorporate into American History because of the shame associated with it. That way the power-brokers don’t have to deal with the shame and wrong-doing. The only history we’re getting has to be cleansed, we’re not talking about the rape of black women. Anything that happens in the US is part of American history. Celebrating Black inventors, leaders and revolutionaries like we currently do is great, but what’s missing is acknowledging the shame of slavery.
-I sympathize with the mom in the film who took it upon herself to teach her daughter about slavery. American Indians have the same problems that Tilghman presents in the film. We have to tell our story to our own kids all the time. It’s hard though when you’re contradicting what’s in the text book and your kid doesn’t know what to believe.
-I take issue with the men reenacting and celebrating the Confederacy and flying the Confederate flag. They say it’s not just a symbol of racism and slavery, but it’s akin to wearing a swastika.
-I think there is still a place for the celebration and acknowledgment that comes with Black History Month, but we should also work to incorporate and add these powerful stories to the main curriculum.
-Tilghman has really reminded me as a mom that I need to shake things up and push for 365 days of Black History! I can remember when I was little and it was just a week. A month is a mark of progress, but we can’t be compliant or just eliminate Black History Month until we have something better to replace it with.
-I think if we eliminated Black History Month, we’d be forgetting whose shoulders we stand on and the struggle to establish Black History Month.
-It seems that the corporate side of Black History Month is inevitable. There seemed to be some disgust around the Heineken’s Black History advertisement. My question is are we disgusted with the product or all mass-marketing? I mean would we have the same issue if the ad was for Colt 45?
-I remember the Kings of Africa Budweiser campaign from a few years back. I think they is a larger issue there with marketing alcohol to our young people.
-I think the high school requirement for Black History is just awesome. My mother went to the all-black Lincoln High School in the 1930s in Kansas City and Black History was a requirement then.
-Black History always felt like a funeral for me of all the past achievements and leaders. I think Black History needs to start as far back as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and not stop. I agree wholeheartedly with Tilghman that Public Enemy should be included!
Listen to KCUR’s interview on Central Standard with Shukree Hassan Tilghman and UMKC History Professor Pellom McDaniels III, who is featured in the film.
Create and discover African American History from the palm of your hand with More Than A Month’s accompanying smartphone application: More Than a Map(p).