Black History Month is celebrated in many forms, but the month always begins with recognition. The annual celebration is the time the nation commemorates prolific African-Americans and their achievements. The celebration is in recognizing the struggle of ethnic minorities to become a vital part of American popular culture.
For many African-American artists and entertainers, meaningful representation in American art is very important. There was a time when African-American writers were refused publication in major newspapers or magazines. The African-American image on television and in film was belittled or stereotyped in the early years of film-making. African-Americans have come a long way in showcasing their talents. The 44th NAACP Image Awards were held February 1st, 2013, and through this award show, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People show how important publicly recognizing entertainers, politicians, and humanitarians of African, Asian, Native American and Latino descent is for the nation. On that night, actress Kerry Washington took home three awards; she received one of these awards for her lead role on ABC’s Scandal. Denzel Washington won Outstanding Lead Actor for his Oscar-nominated performance in Flight, while Jamie Foxx took home the award for Entertainer of the Year, particularly for his performance in Django Unchained. The Chairman’s Award went to Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. The Spingarn Award honored actor and humanitarian Harry Belafonte, who was presented with the honor by Sidney Poitier, the first African-American man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Black History Month is also being celebrated throughout Philadelphia. The Free Library of Philadelphia is holding events on the Harlem Renaissance writers and the birth of jazz music through February. One can learn more about Black History Month events at the library through their website, www.freelibrary.org. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a vast collection of paintings and photography by African-American artists, and one can learn more at www.philamuseum.org. The African-American Museum of Philadelphia will be holding events month long, including “Come See About Me: The Mary Wilson Supremes Collection,” which showcases the music and fashion of the legendary R&B group, The Supremes.
Many Americans, of all races, are divided on the issue of Black History Month’s necessity. Does the nation really need a month to recognize African-Americans? As the U.S. celebrates the struggle and triumph of an ethnic minority who were persecuted and disenfranchised, one must be reminded that these achievements are extraordinary because U.S. history is tainted by an era that did not allow African-Americans, and other ethnic minorities as well, the same access to education and jobs in the sciences and the arts.