What Black History Month Means to Me: A Chat With My Eight-Year-Old Cousin

by Naomi Ekperigin

Me: Hey Devon.*
Devon: Hi.
Me: How are you?
Devon: Fine.
Me: Happy Black History Month!!!
Devon: [Laughs] What? It’s not Christmas.
Me: It’s better than Christmas!
Devon: No it’s not. You don’t get presents.
[Think outside the box, cuz!]
Me: What are you doing in school for Black History Month?
Devon: I don’t know, projects and stuff.
Me: What is Black History Month?
Devon: [Silence]
Me: Hello?
Devon: [Laughs] Oh, sorry. Ann (his sister) is watching That’s So Raven.
Me: Ah, yes. Raven’s black, too, you know.
Devon: Yeah, I know. What do you want to know?
Me: What you’re learning about Black History Month.
Devon: Black History Month is a month about black people.
Me: Mmm-hmmm. Do you know who started it?
Devon: Um…. Martin Luther King?
Me: WRONG! Carter G. Woodson started it in 1926 — it was originally Negro History Week, but it became monthly in 1976.
Devon: OK.
Me: I can understand your skepticism. I’m wary of any holiday that was developed after 1930 (I’m lookin’ at you, Kwanzaa).
Devon: [Silence]
Me: So, why do you think Woodson started BHM?
Devon: I don’t know … ’cause there used to be slavery.
Me: OK, I’ll allow it. So, what happens during Black History Month?
Devon: There are a lot of movies with black people on TV, and … that shows us there are a lot of black people in movies and TV. At school we have to do projects on black people we like and who did important things. Each week we have a new report, and it’s so hard. We have to look in the library for books and sometimes they’re hard to find so we have to go on the computers and find stuff on the Internet. We have to tell our teacher who we want to write about so that two people don’t do the same thing.
Me: Are you writing about Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Devon: No, everybody does Martin Luther King. I’m doing my report on The Rock.
Me: Excuse me?
Devon: The Rock. You know, the actor.
Me: Yes, I’m familiar. May I ask why on God’s green earth you have chosen to study and write a report on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?
Devon: He’s so funny, and he’s really strong, and he used to play football and is now in movies. He does a lot of stuff and I think he is important for black people, so, um, duh.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that The Rock is Canadian and Samoan. He seemed so excited.

Update: I’m experiencing a BLACKlash of epic proportions. The Rock’s dad is black and from Canada; his mom is Samoan. He is whatever color you want him to be. I just think it’s funny that the star of “The Tooth Fairy” is the subject of a presentation!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Soujourner is a writer, comedian, and blacktress in New York City. You can catch her live throughout Black History Month.

Photo via Flickr