Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Celebrating African American History Month and Beyond

Pinkster Reenactment
As a child, I always wondered why we didn't have African American holidays. Since then I have learned that our ancestor in slavery observed the holidays of their masters but in their own way. This became a time to unite with family and communicate with each other. They also used this as a time to sell and exchange goods in order to better their circumstances. In spite of oppressive conditions, holidays became an incubator for the creation of African American culture in music, song, dance and storytelling. Their spirit of resistance and resilience allowed them to survive in spite of slavery.

Today we recognize and celebrate many special days that have been part of African American History, and the number keeps growing.  Here is a calendar of Holidays and Days of Remembrance that we can share with family and children this year. Please share with us how you celebrate African American culture and any holidays you think should be added to the list.

January 1         Watch Night!  The Watch Night Services in African American communities can be traced back to gatherings on December 31, 1862. On that night, Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God. Today many Black churches still commemorate that day as a day of prayer, thanksgiving and spiritual liberation.

January 1     Signing of the  Emancipation Proclamation commemorates January 1, 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the document that freed slaves in confederate states.

January 15        Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday - MLK was born January 15, 1929. His birthday is celebrated as a national holiday the third Monday of January. Now it has become a special day of service where everyone is encouraged to volunteer in their community.

February 1-28   African American History Month - was started by Carter Woodson in 1926 as Negro History Month, and then expanded to the whole month.

February 4        Rosa Parks Birthday

February 28     Mardi Gras - "Fat Tuesday," is the last day of the Carnival season and always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Celebrated with parties, concerts and parades.

May 19             Malcolm X Birthday

May 29            Memorial Day celebrated the last Monday of May has its origins in 1865 when former slaves in South Carolina wanted to honor Union  Soldiers

June 19          Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.

June 4              Pinkster  celebrated the seventh Sunday after Easter refers to the Dutch festivals held by African Americans (both free and slave) in the Northeastern United States, particularly in the early 19th century. For the African slaves, Pinkster was a time free from work and a chance to gather and catch up with family and friends. Today this holiday is celebrated at Philipsburg Manor
381 N. Broadway,  Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591. Festivities include lively presentations of drumming and traditional dance, African folktales, and demonstrations of traditional African instruments and utilitarian wares.

August 28        March on Washington was held on August 28, 1963 where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, a landmark of the Civil Rights Movement.

December 26- January 1   Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and in other nations of the Western African diaspora in the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage and African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Beyonce Reawakens the Fertility Goddess in Her Grammy Appearance

"My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable. It's important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror — first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys — and see themselves. And have no doubt that they're beautiful, intelligent and capable. This is something I want for every child of every race, and I feel it's vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes."

This past Sunday very pregnant Beyonce ignited a fire of goddess power in her visually appealing and very poignant Grammy performance. Using the archetypal image of the Madonna and Oshun (goddess of love, beauty and fertility), she celebrated motherhood, family and the strength of the female spirit. Motherhood for African American women has always been complicated filled with joy and fear, and rarely celebrated.

From the time we arrived on the shores of America being a Black mother has never been easy but Beyonce reminds us it can be a powerful experience. She is an artist who has displayed courage, taken risk and used her platform to explore issues close to the African American community. Her message was clear. Female relationships especially between mothers and daughters are important.  These relationships just like birth and motherhood are sacred. Against a backdrop of stereotypes, we can choose to define ourselves, find our voice and speak our truth. We can embrace the ancient wisdom that teaches us to be strong and love ourselves.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Black History Month

Welcome! Maple Sugar Child has been on hiatus for awhile, taking care of children became a priority last year. Of course, children always have to come first but now I am back with lots to share as we celebrate Black History Month and the African American Child. Returning in time for Black History Month is significant.  We celebrate African American achievement all year long but February gives us an opportunity to access how far we have come and what direction we need to go.  Sometimes African American children are not aware of the important role young people have played in our history. February is the best time to remind them.