February 2004

February--the month that everyone pronounces wrong. It's also Black History month... that's what I'm talking about. As the Head Ubangi at Microwaves101, let me give you my insignificant perspective on this topic...

First of all, unlike Steve Martin, I wasn't born into a family of poor black share croppers. My high school had only one black family. In college, my fraternity once pledged a huge black guy in an attempt to win the IFC basketball tournament. His initiation included having to paint a shower stall using nothing but his wallet. Once an hour he was required to say "it sure enough is hot in here, I'se could use some cooling off", and then the shower was turned on full blast cold (with him in it) and the latex paint ran down the drain, and he'd have to start over. Pretty funny for a bunch of Jersey guys...

My "special purpose", to borrow further from Steve Martin, includes an attraction to history. You may have noticed some of this around the Microwaves101 site, such as the Microwave Hall of Fame and the new history of microwave software. So an entire month of Black History seems like a fine idea to me, since I can't recall any formal education in the topic.

Black history often falls into two huge categories, civil rights, and entertainment. There isn't a whole lot of scientific discovery attributed to black engineers or entrepreneurs (please don't call me a racist for ignoring black astronauts, the inventor of the golf tee, etc. here) , but if you exclude all of the contributions by white people that were born into money or had the opportunity to make an easy pile of dough, you'll start to see how the technology thing works. Forty acres and a mule just doesn't allow a lot of scholarly leisure time.

Everyone should know the civil rights leaders by now. Read the speeches of Martin Luther King and Sojourner Truth, this only takes five minutes. Now take the Civil Rights Quiz (nutz, I got one wrong!) At the risk of being called a liberal, I think affirmative action is a good idea, perhaps prolonging it for three generations after every black guy currently living in America gets to die of old age. You don't like the admissions program at University of Michigan? Check out Bob Jones University, you'll have plenty of wholesome white friends there!

On the entertainment side of Black History, think about what Stepin Fetchit had to endure. But maybe he had the last laugh since he was making more cash than you do. Gospel singer and slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson, whose recordings were all cut before 1930, died in poverty, while preparing the way for white superstars such as Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin (who did you think wrote "Nobody's Fault but Mine"?) Think about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, but not because he and his lovely wife were in the news recently. James Brown's televised concert in Boston the day after King was assassinated (April 5, 1968) maintained calm in the "Hub of the Universe" at the request of Mayor White (you can't make this stuff up), while 130 other cities went down in flames. Forget about his new mug shot, JB deserves a statue somewhere down by the Fleet Center.

If we could all go back in history and right one wrong, I'd let someone more important worry about abolishing slavery before it started, stopping lynchings, etc. (perhaps Mr. T would like to do the honors). There's just one thing I'd want to do. I'd try to convince Sammy Davis Junior to end one of his Rat Pack shows in Vegas by telling Frank Sinatra "if one more watermelon comment comes out of your pie hole, I'm gonna bust your ass in the mouth", then giving him the finger.

- Unknown Editor

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