I am glad that Black History Month comes in February. After starting the year off with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I am always anxious for what new things I will learn over the course of those 28 days. When I look at February, it is both the birth and death month of Frederick Douglass. Some other notables born in February are W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price and Huey P. Newton. February marks the month that Malcolm X, noted surgeon Charles Drew, Madame C.J. Walker and the founder of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, died.
One of the most interesting things I learned so far this month was that in the early 1900s, there was an African-American car-maker. His name was Charles Richard Patterson, and he originally had a carriage-making facility. As the dawn of “horseless carriages” became evident, his company began to produce their own 4-cylinder Continental engine in 1915. It is estimated that no more than 150 of the cars were produced as his company wasn’t able to compete with what Ford Motor Company was doing. Still it is significant that it happened and for us to know that it happened.
I recently had the opportunity to see a documentary on the life of Bob Marley. It was very interested to learn the history of reggae music. Although the music had its origins in both the U.S. and Africa, Jamaicans made it their own, tying it to Rastafarianism and creating a unique sound that is only around 55 years old! In Spanish-speaking countries, the African influence brought about salsa music and in the U.S., the descendants of enslaved Africans created the blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, and call-and-response, just to name some of the examples.
The middle passage took around 20 million people out of Africa. All one has to do is see the black population of Central and South America as well as the Caribbean islands to know that our presence is very pronounced on this side of the Atlantic. I find it very interesting that whereas many areas of Africa are still experiencing turmoil via tribal conflicts, we rarely hear of predominantly black-populated islands being in turmoil with another island. Jamaica is not fighting Haiti, nor are the Bahamas warring with Bermuda.
As I write this column, it is the day before the municipal election, in which black people will be the ones who determine who the next mayor will be. What I found most interesting, and many may note after the fact, is that the current mayor didn’t do any ground campaigning for his reelection. I early-voted and not a single sign was anywhere to be seen so that I could tell what his reelection campaign slogan was. Not seeing those signs means he wasn’t hiring unemployed people to put signs out. In my mind that is just another sign of his disinterest in the average person. If he can get their interest via television, then that is his manner of swaying the voter.
If Rahm doesn’t lose outright, I hope he is forced into a runoff. If that happens, all those forums where he turned his nose up will be a different venue. He will have to come out and address the local issues and speak on subjects other than full-day kindergarten. He will have to have plans for the West Side that are substantive and not the lightweight mess he normally offers.
My next column will be about my take on the election as I will work it like I have done in the past.