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Black Connect
by on November 4, 2019

By Courtney Thornton

The hardships of Black people in the United States are well documented throughout American history. From being enslaved, oppressed and denied civil and economic rights, to experiencing the election and re-election of America’s first Black president, Black people have remained resilient and vocal about injustice and inequality in America. 

However, we, as a community, do not view the observance of Black Solidarity with the reverence it deserves.  Other cultures and communities pay homage to their own holidays, whether or not the occasions are acknowledged or celebrated by the masses - Yom Kipur, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and so on.  But in the Black community, 420 receives more recognition than Black Solidarity Day.  We can do better.   

The tortured past of Black people in America can and should extend farther than Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Black History Month and, with more exposure in the recent years, Juneteenth. Faced with the widening racial wealth gap in America that is caused by systemic and deliberate economic oppression, it is imperative that we observe another important day in Black history - Black Solidarity Day. 

What is Black Solidarity Day?

Black Solidarity Day was started in 1969 by Dr. Carlos E. Russell.  The Brooklyn College educator was inspired by the 1965 Douglas Turner Ward play, “A Day of Absence.” In the play, community wakes up to find that its Black citizens have “disappeared.”   The unexpected and unexplained absence of Black people from the community, particularly the labor force, causes hysteria as the community and local economy grinds to a halt.

To Dr. Russell, A Day of Absence was a visual reminder of the need for Black people to reflect on and value their daily contributions to society and how they impact the social, economic and political climate of the country in which they reside.

The play brings up a valuable question: What would happen in theseUnited States if Black people, spanning across all ethnic, national, class, sexual, and religious lines, did not contribute to white society for an entire day? 

Historical Context

Black Solidarity Day began during one of the most turbulent and racially progressive times of American history.  With the exposure of the Civil Rights Movement with the nonviolent guidance of Martin Luther King in the early 1960s to the vigilant pro-black protection of the Black Panthers in 1966, the recognition of Black Solidarity day have ranged from observing quietly within one’s home, to participating in community events to discuss political candidates and socio-economic inequalities, to completely removing one's influence from work, school and shopping. 

Millennials are Reigniting Black Solidarity

Following major tragic killings of Black men and women that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and in the face of income inequality and the disproportionately low number of Black-owned businesses, which sparked the founding of Black Connect, we, as millennials who are leading the next generation, are takingour rightful place as leaders to uphold the strength and pride of our people.  It is our responsibility to unite to address racial injustices and persistent and worsening socio-economic inequalities.

Following the election of President Barack Obama, we as a peoplefelt and displayed tremendous pride. #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackExcellence exploded as we felt safe and seen and transcendedlimitations imposed by an unjust nation. We were as bold, brilliant, passionate, and courageous as our grand parents and great-grand parents were back in their day. 

The triumph, pain, and unyielding spirit of our ancestors lie within us. It’s in our blood.  It is the armor that equips us to go farther than the generations before us. To give more pride to the power and be more unwavering in our demands. We are resilient to the bone. And we will breathe life into our heroes and heroines of the past, dead set on a mission to disrupt the systems built to keep people of color economically oppressed.

We are strong, we are necessary to the fight, we are united, and we are HERE. That is what Black Solidarity Day is about. It’s OUR day!  However you decide to observe this special day, remember your Black Power.

(If you would like to read the one-act play “A Day of Absence” by Douglas Turner Ward, the National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox published excerpts readily available for your interest.)