2017 started with a bang! The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, the MLK Parade and the MLK Day of Service led the way for a series of black history programs, banquets, fashion shows, art festivals and church programs.
Then Gibbs High School, under the direction of Dr. Cody Clark, launched a tear jerking gospel production entitled “4 Little Girls,” telling the story of the four little black girls who were bombed in a church in Birmingham in 1963. All done for the purpose of celebrating African-American history month!
Now what, what happens from March through December in the way of celebrating the contributions African Americans? Eddie Chambers, professor of art and art history at the University of Texas, Austin, says now more than ever is time to expand the African-American history to a year round celebration.
Chambers contends that our failure to expand the knowledge of the African-American footprint on this country basically renders our study of American history void of our ability to know American history.
In a 2015 arts and culture impact report, it was estimated that the arts generate approximately $212 million dollars within the arts. The report also revealed that the city and state generate combined revenue from the arts. The report went on further citing examples of how the arts serve as a major economic engine in St. Petersburg.
If this report is accurate, which I believe it is, why is the focus on arts and culture treated as an appendage that we have to tolerate two months out of the year. Why does the beautiful architectural structure that serves as the home to the Chihuly collection share its innovative and architecturally strong space with Publix as opposed to the African-American history museum or some other museum that represents the history of a people that make up approximately 23 percent of the community? The answer is simple: we allow it!
Until we start viewing our history as a valuable part of this community’s history and demanding through an organized effort that the celebration of African-American history becomes an intentional and strategic economic engine within St. Petersburg, the notion that our importance should be relegated to simply two months out of the year will continue to play into the psyche of our children that we are less than.
Maria L. Scruggs