Speak Up! Speak Out!
Contemporary Writings and Performances from Provocative Artists
Over the next several weeks, we will bring you a collection of contemporary writings and performances from provocative artists and creatives, many who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color. For February, we sent out a prompt to several REP staff and friends – “What does Black History Month mean to you" – knowing that there is a range of viewpoints and feelings. We hope sharing these perspectives provides you entryways for dialogue among your networks and food for thought and action about what this month now means and how we all can foster a deeper appreciation for Black History every day of the year.
What Black History Month Means to Me - Part 1
Black History Month will always be a time to celebrate not only my people’s contributions to this country and the world, but also a time just to celebrate being Black. It’s celebrating the skin we have been conditioned to hate & be ashamed of, while also recognizing the stories our educators ignored & refused to teach us. It’s a time we love to celebrate. However, it also serves as a reminder of just how far behind we actually are. The countless contributions of Black people have literally shaped life as we know it today. The traffic light, the refrigerator, Jazz music, GPS Navigation, are just a few things that were invented/developed by people whose descendants are still fighting the same fight they were centuries ago. This month proves that US History books contain so little about Black stories, that we need a separate month, just to show there’s more to us than slavery and Dr. King.
It reminds me that America does not want to reconcile with its past, and will protect the lies of its history by continuing to silence the stories of my people. Which, if they added Black history to their curriculums, it would reveal just how much their patriotism is based on the violence of their ancestors. Which makes many white people uncomfortable, so we continue to teach only half of history, while the other half must take advantage of the shortest month of the year to teach centuries of contributions and truths. If you’re White, what does Black History Month mean to you? When you figure it out, maybe then history books will hold only the truth, and we can end this 400-year war on Black people. And only then, will we live in a country that is self-evident, of all people being created equal.
. is a San Diego based Actor, Stage Manager, Poet & Writer. They also enjoy playing music, painting, and building sand castles.
I was six years old when “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson, became Black History Month. I loved celebrating it. It was a big celebration for my home city of Atlanta, my school, and in my family. Dancing to James Brown’s, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud!“ channeling Jessie Jackson’s recitation of “I AM Somebody!“ I loved the “did you know” game we played in my family: Did you know the 3-way traffic light was invented by a Black man? We would read our favorite poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar. I loved Black History Month! Even as a teenager, having moved to a new city (Houston), discovering a love for theatre, and for the first time having mostly white peers, I loved it. Even when some of those white peers asked that question. You know the one. “How come there is no white history month?”
This year, I find myself wanting to recapture my youthful excitement about Black History Month. I can’t. Maybe, as my oldest child expressed to me, it’s because since George Floyd, we’ve been living Black history. After all, Black history is American history.
Lately I’ve been thinking about terrorism - violence committed for political aims. The siege on the Capitol, sure. Yet, those people are being called “insurrectionists” and not what they are, terrorist. I’ve been thinking about confederate flags. I’ve been thinking about about burning crosses and hanging Black bodies. I’ve been thinking about choke holds and knees on necks. I’ve been thinking about shots fired in backs and political ads featuring White people holding guns in the foreground with a “squad” of Black and Brown women in the background.
Delicia Turner Sonnenberg
How I wish I could recover that girlhood enthusiasm, but all I can think about this Black History Month is White terror.
is a San Diego based Director and a founder and former Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre.