Black History Month: A celebration with mixed feelings on PBS


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The celebration of Black History Month on PBS’ ‘Independent Lens’ will include a film that is highly critical of the annual February observance of African American history.

‘More Than A Month,’ which airs Feb. 16, follows filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman’s cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. Tilghman challenges the commemoration of the month as short-changing black history and culture, while acknowledging the contradiction that the film is airing during the very month he opposes.


‘I’m a little torn,’ Tilghman said during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour. ‘It can’t really air in July, but I really want it to be seen outside the box, in July or August. March would be great.’

Also expressing reservations about Black History Month was filmmaker Sharon La Cruise, whose documentary ‘Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock’ airs Feb. 2. The film focuses on civil rights activist Daisy Bates, who fought for the right of nine black students to attend the all-white Central High School of Little Rock, Ark., in 1957.

‘I have mixed feelings as well, said La Cruise. ‘But at the end of the day, the film will be seen by more people because of all the promotion behind Black History Month. So I have no problem with that.’

Airing Feb. 9 is ‘The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,’ which recently played theatrically. The film is by seven Swedish journalists who came to America in the late 1960s and early ‘70s to document the burgeoning black power movement. The film, which contains unseen footage that was thought to have been lost, includes interviews with leading black power figures such as Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver.

Davis said she didn’t have as much of a problem with the observance, but said it would be more appropriate if it could be expanded to the struggle of freedom for all races in America.

‘Maybe we could call it freedom month,’ she said.

-- Greg Braxton