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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

Black History Month

In LEVEL. More on Medium.

When Black people struggled to penetrate media of any kind, any representation was historic — but we need more from our art

Photo: suteishi/Getty Images

On the last day of the 2021 edition of Black History Month, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio hosted a program celebrating the work of Black composers. The performance included work by William Grant Still; Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges; and Jeffrey Mumford. Being a faculty recital, the music was performed exclusively by White musicians, which is admittedly a redundant statement. I could be making an Oberlin joke here, but really, the overwhelming Whiteness of classical musicians and instructors would be true almost anywhere in America. Conservatories aren’t exactly brimming with Black harpsichord players.


Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Doing it for the culture (and the report card)

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

4. The talent show

These were actually sort of litty, as the kids say. Sure, there was inevitably a spoken-word performance and some historical monologues, but really this was an excuse for Black kids to be excellent and Black as all outdoors without a care in the world. The only place you’d hear a Margaret Walker poem followed by a dance interpretation of 112’s “Peaches and Cream.”

3. The group project

Black folks who went to predominantly White schools know the feeling of partnering with classmates who act like they’re too good to learn about Malcolm X. Shut up and do your PowerPoint slide, Chad!

2. Dress-up day

No Black History…


Learning ‘Black Facts’ as a kid bolstered me as an adult

“Black History Month serves a purpose, and I’m glad we have it. It doesn’t replace any other form of education but at the very least it could be a place to start for those who need to — and want to — know.


Revisiting my interview with the superstar just a few months before his death

Photo: Rob Verhorst/Getty Images

In the back room corner of my old Fort Greene apartment was an old plastic file cabinet. Inside, buried beneath some college newspaper clippings, promotional photos of old Stax stars (Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MGs), and datebooks from the 1980s, was a ticket stub I should have kept in a place of honor. It was from Madison Square Garden, Saturday, September 20, 1980. The show started at 8:00 p.m. The ticket price for an orchestra seat was $12.50, but mine had “Guest” stamped on it since it was complimentary. …


THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

And forward this to the whole damn company while you’re at it

Illustration: Michael Kennedy

Today is the first day of February, and I’m officially stressed out. Sure, I’m happy to have escaped the most bizarre January of my lifetime, with only the mild shellshock of a militia-fueled insurrection and the inauguration of this nation’s first Black vice president occurring just weeks apart. But I’ve got a love-loathe relationship with the second month of the year. Black History Month can be beautiful — but for Black employees in corporate America, it can also be awkward as hell.

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