There was a time when most African Americans felt very proud to hold Black History Month. Last year we celebrated 10 years of having this auspicious event. We all were very proud of the African American Association the only non-profit organization in all of the National Park Service. Last year I was not at all pleased about the event and wrote about it in no uncertain terms. This year all I can say it was mediocre not to sound too harsh but I could if I wanted to say more.
February 17, 2005 the Black History Month was celebrated in the Moraga Room at the Officers' Club at the Presidio of San Francisco. Some know it as Building 50. Susheel Bibbs enacted the life of Mary Ellen Pleasant way back in 1996 and this year she was called back to do the honors again. Mary Pleasant was known as the Mother of Civil Rights and played an important role in the Underground Railway.
The Underground railway was about saving lives and freeing slaves. It had nothing to do with a real Railway Engine or rails - it had a lot to do with trials and safe homes and freedom in the 1880s and early 1990s.
Susheel Bibbs has enacted this one-woman show all over the United States. Recently the San Francisco Board of Supervisor honored her with a proclamation. Susheel Bibbs has enacted the role so many times that she has mastered the language of the times and the spirit of Mary Ellen Pleasant. You can visit her web site:
And here is another website about Mary Ellen Pleasant:
There were but 3 African Americans in the audience Joe Oliver, Angela, and Rick Penn - all of them work for the National Park Service. The other two were Ron Batiste my good friend and myself. Gone are the days when we had the audience packed with African Americans and diversity. I did not see anyone represent the NPS - the man who talks from both sides of his mouth Brian O'Neill. I did not see the Presidio Director Craig Middleton. As the years go by Black History Month is becoming more an event for the Whites. A cold event with cold snacks.
In past years we always had hot food and we did some good outreach. This year we did not even have a simple program. In past years people looked forward to coming for any event we planned and that included the Black History Month Event. We always put our best foot forward.
It is a shame that no outreach was done and if someone cannot do it - ask others to do it. I do not mind doing it - I do not work for the Presidio anymore but I helped lay the foundation and set some high standards. I feel pained to see all that I built slip away.
Every Black History Event I put on - I had video taped and some way along the line the leadership of the African American Association fell prey to the racist National Park Service and the Presidio Trust and lowered the standard.
Today African Americans working for the NPS and the Presidio Trust are far worse off then some years ago. Racism is well and alive and being fostered by some rednecks who do not give a hoot about Black History Month and how they treat the African Americans.
This year for a first time no one cared to mention about the Buffalo Soldiers. Over 600 Buffalo Soldiers lie at the Veteran Cemetery in the middle of the Presidio of San Francisco. History will be made more meaningful if we carry on the torch and have standards. Let us not be mediocre and sellouts. It seems that is what happening in the last few years.
When I asked Susheel Bibbs if there was a relation between the real Mary Pleasant and the Buffalo Soldiers - she said that was a difficult question. The fact was there was. Mary Pleasant was aware of the Buffalo Soldiers and met some of them. Next year I wish we have some meaningful participation just like we had before. We use to sing the Negro Anthem. We had more color in the audience and less Whip Cream. Let us be the African American Association we were - not be sellouts and take the easy way out.
Mary Ellen Pleasant was about freedom and standing out. When no person of color was permitted in the Courts in San Francisco - this woman stood before Judges and spoke her mind. She stood tall and proclaimed that any person of color could ride the trolleys. She did not shy away as do some Blacks working for the Presidio Trust and the National Park Service.
The African American Association stands tall to protect and preserve al that is wholesome and share the true history of the Unites States and beyond. We never took cover like cowards and always spoke our mind. Whites will never understand slavery; they will never understand what the real Mary Ellen Pleasant stood for if we tow the line and condescend to those who are racists. Cow down to those who have failed to preserve and protect.
Black History Month is about telling the story of African Americans. The story of the Buffalo Soldiers and that of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and others like him that were not cowards. As the years go by events have been put on as cold as the food that is served and not representative of the nature of African Americans. Where is our pride? Why have an event if it does not embrace many people of diversity? Why are we towing the line and bowing our heads to Whites? It is after all called Black History Month!