This Modern Writer: 28, NO, MAKE THAT 30, ABSOLUTELY TRUE BLACK HISTORY FACTS ON THE OCCASION OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH (FORMERLY NEGRO HISTORY WEEK). 1 FOR EACH DAY, PLUS 1 IN THE CASE OF LEAP YEAR & 1 FOR GOOD LUCK by Rion Scott


1.

In 1857, frustrated by the number of informants undermining her efforts along the Underground Railroad, abolitionist Harriet Tubman printed up 500 “Stop Snitching” t-shirts and distributed them throughout the South.

2.

Black History Month was in danger of being canceled in 1981 before corporations such as McDonalds and Coca Cola offered sponsorship.

3.

Scientist George Washington Carver invented over 300 uses for the peanut, including peanut soap, peanut paint and peanut massage oil. He died of an undiagnosed peanut allergy in 1943.

4.

Amiri Baraka scares the shit out of  white most folks.

5.

Aretha Franklin as a new mother in 1957: “No, I will not cover them while breastfeeding! As a matter of fact, I will never cover them again!”

6.

On a very special episode of  The Cosby Show in the show’s controversial final season, OB/GYN Heathcliff Huxtable loses his family, wealth and practice after an awkward pelvic exam leads to a malpractice suit.

7.

Spoken word poetry was invented in 1972 for use in Black History Month commercials.

8.

Wayne Brady leads a Black Liberation sleeper cell whose members include Michael Steele, Armstrong Williams and Clarence Thomas.

9.

James Brown discovered his signature cry of “Heeeeeey!” after he caught a crook making off with his Cadillac.

10.

The white guy who actually wrote “Roots” had a heart attack while reading Alex Haley’s version. And another while watching the miniseries.

11.

The Blizzard of ’96 they’re calling it. Every conceivable thing has come to a halt, buried in 24 inches of snow.

Capitalism though, is alive and grinding in my heart (sort of) and in the heart of my neighbor Braheem (very much so). We roam middle class Silver Spring, MD with shovels slung over our shoulders, but the getting ain’t good here: $15 to $20 a driveway. There are two of us. Making that kind of money would leave nothing to split at the end of the day. We cross the highway, heading to upper middle class Chevy Chase where the negotiations start at $50 and can go as high as $100.

I let Braheem do the negotiations. He’s better at this. Told an old woman in Silver Spring her $10 offer wasn’t good enough. She was old and sad-looking and alone. Looked like she could have used some help. I would have done it for free. But I didn’t do it for free. When he shrugs, I follow. To do anything else would mean messing with the money. A thing one never does

Everyone from the lunchroom, the school bus and the bus stop is out. Some guys we know are making appointments while their friends shovel. So enterprising. Me and Braheem mock and taunt them. Would make more money to split their team apart and compete with each other. Stupid.

Our earnings are a matter of how quickly we can finish each driveway and move onto the next one before our competition. Second or third house in a housewife–a white lady (I remember as little about her as she probably remembers abut me)–answers the door. We introduce ourselves and our price. She looks at us and says: “I promised the job to two black guys.”

I make to turn when Braheem replies: “Yeah, that was us.”

Do not stop. Do not pass go. Shovel the driveway. Collect $75. Greatest moment in race relations since Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney sang  Ebony & Ivory.

11 ½.

The last fact is a 100% true story. No bullshit.

12.

By this time in a typical Black History Month, 2 in 5 Americans have already forgotten that it is Black History Month. While 1 in 5 Americans never knew that it is Black History month. And 1 in 5 Americans know, but don’t care that it is Black History Month.

13.

After seeing a local blindman’s success with women, a young Steveland Morris in 1961 donned dark shades and began swaying side to side.

13 ½.

Bonus: Back to  Ebony & Ivory, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder  actually thought this was a good idea.

14.

In 2000, a conscious rapper in crochet pants burned incense and offered a woman salad as a pretext for sex. She thought he was gay.

Interlude, Black History Quote: Carter G. Woodson, Founder of Negro History Week:

“I envisioned in Negro History Week, a time when Black folks and shitty spoken word poets could join their white brothers and sisters in McDonalds, Tide and Coca-Cola advertisements.”

15.

Some facts about our 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama, who is not only the nation’s first African-American President, but also the first Muslim-socialist-foreign-born-terrorist president:

(15a.) Eric B’s historic 1985 presidential bid paved the way for Obama’s victory on November 4, 2008. (15b.) On November 5, 2008, 9 million blacks were either absent or late for work. (15c.) Incidences of firings of African-Americans for insubordination have increased by 75% since Nov. 4, 2008.

(15d.) One of Barack Obama’s first acts as president was to develop a plan to enslave White America. All Black folks know about it, but are sworn to secrecy.

(15e.) Little known fact: Since Nov 5, 2008 it’s been illegal to give a speech to a predominantly Black group without twice mentioning Barack Obama.

16.

The future of civil disobedience was forever changed in 1960 when the Reverend Al Sharpton chased his first ambulance.

17.

In the year of our Lord 33 AD, Black Jesus began his famous 40 day, 40 night fast in the wilderness. This feat is often credited to White Jesus.

18.

Each year Blacks contribute 33 million dollars to the hand lotion industry in celebration of Ash Wednesday.

19.

O.J. did it.

20.

Did you know that the Rutgers women’s basketball team celebrates victories by sleeping with lots of guys while neglecting to comb their hair?

21.

In 2005, Rapper and political activist Flavor Flav took a brave stance against dignity.

22.

Malcolm 2X left the Nation of Islam in 1954 after screaming, “For the last time, we are two entirely different people!”

23.

This day in [pick a year], poet Maya Angelou said something ponderous in a grandiose tone of voice.

24.

Bob Johnson founded BET to be a place where “Black people would be uplifted by the great gyrating asses of Black women.”

25.

It took a few years of pleading from fans, but in 1992, Philadelphia rap group, The Froots wisely dropped the “F” from its name.

26.

In 2004, Janet Jackson exposed her left breast during the Superbowl halftime show. After years of settling for imagining it, men everywhere rejoiced and called for exposure of the right one. Aretha Franklin’s official response: “That ain’t nothing. Come to one of my shows.”

27.

Black Peanuts character, Franklin was dropped from the strip in 1977 after calling Charlie Brown a cracker.

28.

This day in 2003,  The Boondocks comic strip began a long slide into mediocrity from which it never recovered.

29.

KRS-1′s nose released his first solo album in 1989.

30.

Following the first season the groundbreaking sitcom,  A Different World, 4 million people applied to fictional Hillman College. None of these people ever made it to a real school.

Rion Amilcar Scott has contributed to Fiction International, New Madrid and Apparatus Magazine among others. He blogs at datsunflambe.blogspot.com and tweets @reeamilcarscott.

10 thoughts on “This Modern Writer: 28, NO, MAKE THAT 30, ABSOLUTELY TRUE BLACK HISTORY FACTS ON THE OCCASION OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH (FORMERLY NEGRO HISTORY WEEK). 1 FOR EACH DAY, PLUS 1 IN THE CASE OF LEAP YEAR & 1 FOR GOOD LUCK by Rion Scott

  1. I laughed so hard I cried, then I got really awkward and self-conscious, then I laughed at my self-consciousness, then I doubted myself and interrogated each and every previous reaction anew, then I felt guilty and thought about how stupid and useless guilt is in this situation. Not knowing what to think, I return to my position of thinking nothing at all, the privilege of a culture of paranoia, doubt, mutual distrust, and fear. Thanks for shining a light, Rion.

  2. What the hell was Paul McCartney doing in the 80s? Between “Ebony & Ivory” and “Say, Say, Say”, he almost single-handedly murdered R&B.

    Fantastic read. As amusing at much of it was, #12 really sticks out, particularly if #2 is true. Self-conscious or not, we should be celebrating Aretha’s boobies every day of the year.

  3. My friend and I were just talking last week about a McDonald’s advertisement for Black History Month quoting MLK, and now I know why that poster exists…

  4. Black History Fact: African-American muppet, Roosevelt Franklin disappeared from Sesame Street in the mid-1970s. A body was never found and no one was arrested, but he is believed to have been killed by a rascist muppet cabal that inculdes reputed muppet crime boss, Elmo, Big Bird and Snuffie the enforcer.

  5. Great post. I was checking continuously this weblog and I am inspired! Very helpful information specially the remaining section :) I maintain such info much. I used to be seeking this particular information for a very lengthy time. Thank you and best of luck.

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