As the United States and Canada observe African American History Month in February, educators and historians are busy collaborating with artists, community leaders and activists for the purpose of preparing lessons, exhibits and events to highlight the importance of African ancestry and history to the development of North American society.
Traditionally, African American History Month celebrations in the United States focus on the struggle of legendary civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, freedom fighters such as Harriet Tubman, courageous women such as Lavinia Bell, and larger-than-life personalities such as Muhammad Ali. In recent years, however, the focus has expanded to include other topics that connect African Americans with the Continent in a more intimate manner. Here are some interesting topics to consider this month:
The main philosophical argument of Pan-Africanism is that African people share more than just history; they also share a destiny. This movement, which is both unifying and separatist, dates back to the time of slavery but it got started in earnest when leaders such as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, business magnate Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, and American activist Malcolm X spoke about consolidating power in the Continent by encouraging the African diaspora to always think about returning for the sake of development.
In the mid-20th century, African Americans interested in science fiction started to inject Afrocentric sensibilities into popular culture. Progressive jazz musician Sun Ra got things started with his Space Arkestra, which later influenced Parliament Funkadelic. Sun Ra’s embrace of electronics and of the Space Age was certainly noticed by old school rap artists such as Afrika Bambaataa; however, decades before hip-hop was born, Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee envisioned Black Panther, a superhero whose story deeply embodies Afrofuturism.