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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 23, 1994)
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Study black history—all year
This week will mark the end of
Black History Month. It marks
the end of most black-orient
ed events on campus and television
specials. It also marks the end of most
class lectures, or “Eyes on the Prize”
documentaries about blacks.
The end of February marks the end
of the 28 days that blacks have been
allotted to celebrate their African her
itage and contributions to America.
Many people applaud the final days
of Black History Month, a month that
some think should be used for some
thing better than celebrating the ac
complishments of blacks.
Some people ask why there’s no
White History Month.
I tell you what, we are willing to
satisfy those whites who may feel this
We’ll give you February, and you
give us March through January, OK?
Cool. Now everybody’s happy, right?
I question the reasons for Black
History Month celebrations, but for
different reasons than those mentioned
Does the United States use this
month as a way of saying “Look, we
gave you one month, the shortest at
that, to celebrate your African heri
tage. What more could you ask for?”
Do we have Black History Month
so college lecturers can ask their stu
dents to attend one black or minority
Do we tiave Black History Month
so people can feel good about them
selves for taking the time out of their
schedules to attend an event?
I ’ m not saying attending these func
tions is bad, or everyone who does is
doing so for the wrong reasons. But
we must understand that even 365
days is not enough time to rejoice and
celebrate the gills African Americans
brought to and continue to bring to the
I do not disapprove of a Black
History Month celebration, but many
people, including blacks, use Febru
If we were taught in school that
there were, and still are, famous
black scientists and inventors,
then there truly would be no need
for a Black History Month.
ary as the only time to celebrate black
Black history should be celebrated
every day, not just on special occa
sions — it is a part of American
I recognize the contributions that
my African-American ancestors gave
to this country are rarely spoken of
within our educational system. This is
one reason we have a Black History
If we were taught in school that
there were, and still are, famous black
scientists and inventors, then there
truly would be no need for a Black
It is important to know, especially
as a child, that there are people who
look like you who helped to build this
country. If children only see people
who don’t look like them doing some
thing worthwhile in history books —
who discovered a life-saving cure for
a disease or contributed to the well
being of our society — how are they
go ing to truly bel ieve that they too can
do accomplish great things?
I applaud anyone who takes the
time to leam about the history of
blacks during Black History Month,
but those who do so only during Feb
ruary and not year round, get a failing
grade in my book.
If you really want to learn about
black history, take the time to do so on
your own throughout the year and not
just when the United States reminds
us that it is now time to celebrate
achievements of blacks in America.
There are many black Americans
that could be included in text books,
• George Washington Carver, de
veloper of instant coffee, ink, sham
poo and soaps made from peanut oil.
• Dr. Charles Drew, pioneer of
blood plasma preservation. Ironical
ly, he died of a car accident because
he was refused entry into a white
hospital; he needed a blood transfu
• Lewis Latimer, inventor of the
electric light bulb. He also made the
plans for Alexander Graham Bell’s
• Garrett Morgan, inventor of the
automatic traffic signal and gas masks
used by firemen and soldiers in war.
• G.F. Grant, inventor of the golf
tee. Isn’t it ironic that blacks weren’t
and still aren’t allowed in some golf
• Elijah McCoy, inventor of the
first automatic lubricator, which al
lowed small amounts of oil to contin
uously trickle onto the moving parts
of operating machines. Anyone own
ing this automatic iubricating device
boasted about having ‘the real
McCoy.’ This phrase still signifies
If you have a chance to leam more
about another culture or your own
culture — if you know little about it,
do so. It will only help you understand
and appreciate those cultures better.
Spurlock it a iculor broadcasting, aewi
edltorlal aad English major aad a Dally No
Di it Me \i> wis
Grandma struggled, survived
I was four or five years old when
my Kansas grandma died. I’d
never been to a funeral before I
went to hers. Nothing compares to the
desolation of a funeral on the windy I
Kansas plains. 1 suddenly understood!
death that day, as Kansas grandma!
was lowered into a rectangle of dark-1
ness. I began to scream that I would!
never see her again. An unfamiliar
lady in a navy blue suit pulled me
close to her while I realized that tiuth.
I never saw Kansas grandma again,
except for the few images I retained
from a child’s memory. Those few
images grow more valuable as 1 get
I remember the way she worked
and lived while I knew her. One of the
last places she lived was a small base
ment apartment with cold floors. Up
until the last time she went into the
hospital, she grill-cooked in a high
way diner. Once, when we went to see
her there, she made bunny pancakes
for my brother and me. 1 didn’t want
her to be working. My other grandma
didn’t have to go to work every day.
I don’t remember seeing Kansas
grandma smile. I remember the terri
ble veins on her legs. I didn’t under
stand that she was poor.
My father always said we were
poor, although he generally paid cash
for new cars. I’ve since learned it was
my mother who knew what it meant to
Mom was Kansas grandma’s sec
ond baby, bom in a boxcar beneath a
coal chute in 1923. Her daddy was
half-Cherokee. Kansas wasn't a gen
erous state for any non-white person
in 1923, and half-Indian was about the
worst thing to be. Grandpa abandoned
the family a few years after my mom
Kansas grandma took her oldest
daughter to live with a relative and
kept my mom with her. They traveled
from small town to small town, clean
ing and cooking for people who could
I don’t know what my Kansas
grandma was made of, but it was
something that endured the
despair of the Great Depression
without drugs, alcohol, welfare
checks or much hope.
pay them or feed them.
Years later, my mom would still
say, “We may be poor, but we’re not
My mother left Kansas when she
was 17 and headed for the West Coast.
A photo of her from 1941 hangsabove
my desk. She was a tiny, dark-eyed
beauty in an ocelot-trimmed, green
silk suit, with the hands of a woman
who had scrubbed floors for 20 years.
My mother expected me to work
when I was a young girl. I cleaned
house, ironed clothes, snapped beans
and gathered eggs. I carried dams and
set tubes in the field. I cut fabric in the
store she managed. I got my first
paycheck when I was 11. It was $18.
I spent it on shoes.
Looking back on hard times is
inversely romantic to being there. I
felt abused. None of my friends had to
work as much as I did. After 30 years,
I figured out that my mother gave me
the life she dreamed of when she was
a child. It wasn’t perfect, but there
was a bed and hot food in the same
place every night.
She doesn’t talk about the past
unless I insist, which I rarely do. I can
see in her eyes the memories of a part
Cherokee child who beat rugs for the
smug wives of small-town business
My mother is now a tiny, grey
haired beauty, living in an aging, six
room farmhouse on the edge of the
Platte Valley. Most people probably
see her as a bashful, simple house
wife, but she is mythic. The obstacles
in her life were formidable, and it’s
nothing short of a miracle that laugh
lines crease her face.
Sometimes, when I grow discour
aged comparing my life to others’
lives, I remember I can’t simply look
and know the measure of their suc
cess. Some people may better hold
their lives together cleaning floors
than others who buy and sell the floors.
I know there are some grand dames
flipping pancakes in this world.
I don’t know what my Kansas
grandma was made of, but it was
something that endured the despair of
the Great Depression without drugs,
alcohol, welfare checks or much hope.
She married wayward men and raised
five children. She worked very hard
for very little up until a few days
before I watched the earth consume
Her life was a fight, a constant
struggle with fatigue and poverty. It
was never connected to some greater
battle against oppression or racism.
No one marched or protested on her
behalf. No cheering crowds ever ac
knowledged her daily triumph over
the chronic pain that came with work
ing too hard.
She wasn’t considered a success.
She never had a house, a new car, a
string of pearls or a fur. She didn’t go
to college or travel. She lived, she
worked and she died. I hope I’m half
the woman she was.
McAdaaas I* a Juaior aews-edltoilal ana
jar aid a Dally Nebraska* coluasaiit.
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