Last night, I had the privilege of participating in a Black History Month Triva Night put on by the Congressional Black Associates, a group of current and former Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill in DC. As a special guest of the organization, I joined one of the four teams comprised of groups of various design. I was hype to do this for a few reasons: 1) trivia; 2) I'm CB4 level Black; and 3) I'm a Black history savant on account of I'm so Black that I'm Black.
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd I realized that I don't know shit about Black history.
Let me rephrase this. I don't know shit about some types of Black history anymore. Definitely the types that come up in Black History Month Trivia Nights.
I know a lot of Black history. I can tell you any number of significant random facts that we like to espouse during Black History Month. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, if you delve further than the stuff they taught us in public schools and that's in books that my parents bought to make sure we were up on our Black game, but not further than that and definitely not anywhere close to a historian's knowledge of the ouevre, well you got me looking like Charles Barkley starting at Latin. I learned this last night in the midst of the game. To be fair, the questions either seemed like gimmes that everybody knew or ones that nobody really knew. The vast majority were the type that at least 3 or 4 of the 20-24 folks participating always knew. There were very few questions - only 2 come to mind - that nobody knew at all. Most of the questions were of the "first African-American who…" variety.
Also, you like how I used oeuvre up there?
While I was up there pondering what I was doing with my life and being cool as hell in the process, I began to reflect on what type of "Black history" I really did know. There was a point in time when I'm sure I could answer any of those questions, quickly, accurately, and aggressively. I call that time in my life, "college" when I was an angry Black man who wore Black panther t-shirts and headwraps and was so into Blackness (at an HBCU no less) that there wasn't a book that featured coloreds that I wasn't willing to read and then debate about. I wasn't quite hoteppin' it up - there was both an app, club, and group of individuals for that - or spittin' about the Gods, Earfs, Seeds, and whatnot and henceforf, but I was all in on Blackness. And I still am, its just that the utility of that random knowledge no longer exists so its been expunged to the vast recesses of my mind.
However, my significant knowledge of current and past Black pop culture, movies, and musics? Yeah, I'm on that. Knowing Black firsts isn't something that I know off the top of my head. Knowing when movies came out and which actor or actress played WhoDat? and SuchnSuch in Whatchamacalit movie? Yeah, I got that. Popular songs and music from the 1950s forward? Sure, I can name lyrics, songwriters, composers, and for many Motown creations I can tell you which Funk Brother played what and where. Which makes sense. It perfectly aligns with my interests in the arts. I have always been into pop culture and the arts. It's been a passion of mine since I was but a mere scamp listening to The Temptations as I prepared to rob that bank that always had a guard standing in front of it.
Questions about Blaxploitation or hip-hop? I'm all in. Black cool? I got that. Slanguage? Bong bong. Demographics in cities and social implications of government policies? Yep.
Unfortunately, the only question in that realm that was asked was about Charlie Pride, which I knew. So did another member of my team.
Because a Black man sangin' country tunes? That's the type of knowledge that I know.
The first Black person to start that thing when he or she did that joint over there while standing on the dock of the bay? Noap.
Luckily for me I went home and ate some chicken and listened to Big L's "Ebonics" so my Black card is still in tact.
What about you? How much Black History do you know?