Too in Demand for Black History Month? African-American Speakers, Artists Say Everyone Wants Them in February, Not Rest of Year

By Bull, Roger | The Florida Times Union, February 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

Too in Demand for Black History Month? African-American Speakers, Artists Say Everyone Wants Them in February, Not Rest of Year


Bull, Roger, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Roger Bull, The Times-Union

Carol Alexander doesn't have to look at a calendar to know when February is approaching. That's when the calls start pouring in, asking her to come and tell her stories.

And Calvin Mackie figures that he could get two public speaking jobs a day during February and maybe four a month the rest of the year.

Welcome to Black History Month, when much attention is focused on African-Americans and their history. Today, Mark "Muddy Harp" Hodgson will present at Florida Community College at Jacksonville the blues history of African-Americans. Tonight, the Biography channel will profile Arthur Ashe and tomorrow, Malcolm X.

But for Alexander, Mackie and many other African-Americans around the country, the month is a double-edged sword.

"This is the month to launch our appreciation of African-American history, to give it elevation," said Alexander, executive director of Ritz Theatre & LaVilla Museum and a storyteller on the side. "But we should be teaching and celebrating the contributions of African-Americans 365 days a year. We should be, but we're not."

Instead, it's all crammed into one month. Actually, it's a little more than a month, beginning in January with Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

"I can make a year's salary as a part-time storyteller from mid-January through February. Well, I can go into March because it's Women's History Month, and I can talk about black women. But I very rarely go out in February. People call here all the time, but I ask them 'Have you brought your students to our museum?' "

After all, the museum has the Griot's Festival, three days of storytelling, starting Thursday.

"And I start talking to them [callers] about what they're doing in March and October."

There are similar reports from around the country. …

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