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Today’s Black Renaissance

The newest edition of Time Magazine features poet laureate Amanda Gorman on the cover with the title “The Black Renaissance.” Many of the articles in this issue make the point that today, we are currently in a “Black Renaissance” because of the prolific creative works recently released by black artists. I would argue that we have always been in a “Black Renaissance,” that talented men and women of African heritage have always been singing, writing, composing, creating, leading, and storytelling for decades and beyond. The difference today is the resounding cacophony from the 2020 summer of discontent, that the protests from Black Lives Matter have reverberated throughout our nation and society that now refuses to allow the Black American experience to be silenced or ignored.

The word “renaissance” originally referred to the revival of arts and literature between the 14th to 16th centuries in Europe. Most notably, this was the age of Shakespeare. Between the 1910s and early 1930s, the Harlem Renaissance became a cornucopia of black artistry centered in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. From the poetry of Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the novels of James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston, the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and countless other artists of every medium. The Harlem Renaissance officially came to an end during the Great Depression when the need for work and income outweighed the need for creative expression. Yet, in every decade since, there have been so many Black artists, writers, inventors, activists, and other professionals, all deserving of recognition.

I read an article about a suburban Utah school that concerned me greatly. Located in a predominantly white community, parents of this Montessori requested to opt their children out of participating and learning about Black History Month. The school obliged and initially allowed the parents to opt-out, but after the story broke and the school received criticism and media coverage, the school changed course and declared that the Black History Month curriculum will be required for all students. It concerns me greatly that the school would even entertain the notion of allowing parents to opt their children out of learning about the many contributions of African Americans to our country. Because this school is located in a homogenous community, I believe that learning about African American contributions, along with the contributions of other minorities like Native Americans, Hispanics, Jewish, Middle Eastern, LGBTQ, and Asians is more even more important in such a community, in addition to the Euro-centric Christian American experience. We are a nation composed of many peoples with distinct backgrounds, and even though there are many homogenous pockets throughout the country, it is the duty of education to ensure that all of the American experience is interwoven in our children’s education.

Rather than acknowledging the contributions of African Americans exclusively during the month of February, or considering a block of current time the Black Renaissance, as suggested by Time Magazine, what will have the greatest impact is a cultural paradigm shift. What I mean is we recognize the gifts to society from all people, not just during designated months. Don’t just consider the Indigenous experience in November or the LatinX experience in October. Likewise, don’t consider the contributions of excellence from Black Americans only in February. Consider them and appreciate them anytime.

During the Super Bowl, I posted on FaceBook that I thought that Amanda Gorman is this generation’s Maya Angelou. Her poetry is powerful and she should be recognized for her gift with words. This recognition should not just be in February because of her race. It should be anytime. But if we are going to designate today as the onset of Today’s Black Renaissance, Amanda Gorman’s remarkable rise to prominence at such a young age has my vote to be the face of a new era.


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