It was a sunny, blue-sky day when I visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the first time last October. As King’s giant, white stone image appeared in my line of sight, I stopped — and simply stared in awe. To me, this memorial symbolizes the immense power of one man who dared to dream of true equality in the “land of the free” – a wise man who fought like heck without raising a fist, whose sharpest weapons were his mind, his voice and his courage to act.
I was too young to fully comprehend the Civil Rights movement as it unfolded and didn’t really learn much about African American history in school, so most of what I’ve learned has come from reading on my own or through television.
Fortunately, through the years, public broadcasting has aired some truly groundbreaking documentaries that bring the riveting stories of African Americans — past and present — to life. This month — Black History Month — that tradition continues.
Check out the PBS Video Portal for a special collection of Black History Month programs, featuring new and encore selections.
Here are my “top picks” for February 2012:
Frontline The Interrupters
· Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. on WNED-TV
· Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 18 at noon on ThinkBright and Well/WORLD TV
During one weekend in Chicago in 2008, 37 people were shot, seven of them fatally. FRONTLINE follows a group of older former gang leaders trying to “interrupt” shootings and protect their communities from the violence they once committed.
· Friday, Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. on ThinkBright and Well/WORLD TV
It was a first day of school they’ll never forget. In 1956, a small group of courageous black students walked into an all-white high school in Clinton, Tenn. and into history. Illuminating the horrors of segregation in the Jim Crow South, this documentary captures the compelling story of the desegregation of the first public high school in the South following the federal Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
· Monday, Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. on WNED-TV
OK, everybody sing: “Hi de hi de hi de ho.” That iconic refrain from “Minnie the Moocher” was ingrained in the popular culture by jazz/swing showman Cab Calloway. He was a regular performer at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club and one of the first black musicians to tour the segregated South.
Independent Lens More Than A Month
An African-American filmmaker travels across the country with one goal: to end Black History Month. Through his tongue-in-cheek journey, he explores the treatment of history and what it tells us about race and equality in a “post-racial” America.
What do you think? Should we end Black History Month? Do you believe setting aside time to focus on the accomplishments of black Americans is still important?
These are just a few examples of the thought-provoking, compelling television airing in February. Tune in!