Sunday, February 7, 2010

my favorite month

It’s February. The month of my birth. I was born February 13th at 11:58 pm. So close to valentine’s day. I like to think that’s why I am so enamored of “love”. In all its forms - agape, eros, philia, storge and xenia. and as i grow, my ideas of love grows. february is also black history month.
to be honest, i don't particularly "do" anything different in february than i do in other month with respect to black history. i believe taht we need to read up on and honor our history all the time. however, i do get to catch up on ALOT of black movies that are played accross the various channels during the month of february. :)
it's quite a short month but it is host to me, love and black history. right off the bat, love and black history does not appear to have anything to do with each other.

when i was younger, my concept of love was limited to familial love and romantic love. in high school, i developed a love for my people. that love coincided with me learning about african american history in america. i was in shock learning that there was so much that i did not know. i was young. and i was angry. i remember thinking that black history month seemed to be defined by a few people, a few plays and church programs, usually associated with the civil rights movement. particularly, dr. martin luther king, jr.

i had read malcolm x and i agreed with "any means necessary". watching the clips of the civil rights marchers trying to march with dignity while being attacked made me angry. thinking about those 4 little girls (16th street baptist church bombing), i didn't want to hear turn the other cheek and listen to speeches of non violence. i was inspired by "We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary. ” (Malcolm X, 1965) and for some reason, i felt that i had to choose between the two. in my mind, it was choosing between the weak and the strong. i wanted our people to be strong.

last night, i watched a piece on mlk by cnn . and it made me think about how angry i used to be. the older i get, the more i come to love dr. king's actions and words. the older i get, the more i realize how much strength it takes to live and practice love & non-violence in a society determined to circumvent your inherent human dignity. when i watched the clips of the marchers being attacked, i still got angry. but i was also in awe of the will and resilience of those marchers to keep marching based on the principle of the upliftment of our people. i was aware of the strength that must have taken. and then he goes on to say that we are to love our enemies. there was a time when i would have thought that that was weak. that time has since passed. Clarissa Pinkola Estes says that "some people mistake being loving for being a sap. Quite the contrary, the most loving people are often the most fierce and the most acutely armed for battle".

as i grew so did my concept of love and its association with god. i've already written a blog on living love and god being love. it seems to be a recurring and growing theme in my mind & spirit. at some point, i discovered Gandhi. This man's non-violent struggle lead to the end of England's century long rule of India. he inspires me. it is amazing to see men who live and die for principles when those principles are for the upliftment of people and the human condition. gandhi believed that all great religions conveyed the simple truth that love, truth and non-violence are synonomous with eacher & are synonomous with God. How can you not love Gandhi?!!

MLK was inspired by Gandhi also. In Stride Toward Freedom, he wrote "Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale." King concluded: "If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. We may ignore him at our own risk."

you see, here is where black history & love meet. MLK is influenced by jesus's command to "love your neighbor as yourself" and gandhi's living example of that commandment.

Reading Gandhi's words struck a chord in my soul. "It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e. hate, ruled us we should have become extinct long ago. And yet, the tragedy of it is that the so-called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violence.
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
Whether humanity will consciously follow the law of love, I do not know. But that need not disturb me. The law will work just as the law of gravitation works, whether we accept it or not. Through the Heart we may come to know the Love of God; through the Heart we may become the Love of God."

with that in mind, it is with love that we transform society. and i mean love as an action word. the kind of love that inspires you to donate to haiti after watching the devastation. the kind of love that inspires you to donate or work at local shelters. the kind of love that inspires you to mentor a teenager or be a big brother/big sister. the kind of love that inspires you to "be the change you wish to see in the world" (gandhi)

at the end of the mlk program last night, i thought about black history and how it is sometimes only thought of during the month of february. or how i've heard people complain that it is in the month of february and that's the shortest month of the year. but really, we don't need a government approved holiday to remember or honor our history. i think one of the driving forces for carter g. woodson in establishing black history week and then month was the lack of available evidence of the contribution of black people. it is definately important that we are aware of what we have accomplished, how far we have come. i think we have to remember that there is sometimes not a love of self-love in our community. we sometimes don't hold our culture in high esteem (unless we are being attacked). and we sometimes do not behave as if we hold our culture in high esteem. so maybe black history month is so important to serve as a reminder that we need to understand who we are as a people, what we can do and how much we can improve as a people and more importantly really love ourselves as a people.

The Senegalese poet Baba Dioum once wrote, “In the end, we conserve what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

lets love ourselves!