The politics of Mayredux

Ph.D. | 5/18/2011, 5:29 p.m.

Interestingly, a controversy and confusion stills reigns within the Black community (and within other progressive circles) over the annual celebration of African Liberation Day and its connection to more than just the anti-apartheid struggle and other forms of militant protest. I wrote an article during May 2010, that is repeated below in a slightly updated version to clarify the situation. Since that confusion still exists among too many of us, the article bears republishing.

Just to be clear, African Liberation Day--May 25--is the exact same holiday as All Africa Day, the only current continentwide (and even worldwide) holiday for all African people. Like January's MLK Day, it is still growing in status, acceptance and influence.

In fact, each month in the Western calendar has several dates of importance to offer as proof of the month's significance. Of course, January has New Year's and Dr. King's birthday celebration (as mentioned above) about which to stand tall. February not only has Valentine's Day, it has Presidents' Day and the birthday of Frederick Douglass, not to mention Black History Month. The roll call of important calendar days in each month would find not one four-week period lacking in distinction.

The big dog in political months, however, hands down is May. That month starts off on the first day with May Day--the seminal celebration of springtime rites and socialist activism. It ends on May 31, Memorial Day (originally, Decoration Day), the pre-eminent celebration of loyalty and courage in America's Civil War.

In between, there is Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day (whoever doesn't think Mother's Day is political has been under a rock for a while), African Liberation Day and All Africa Day, just to name a few. In fact, May hosts more than 25 distinctive political observances, including the annual Malcolm X birthday gala and festival held in most major urban areas in America (There's also another Malcolm X festival held annually in April).

The Kentucky Derby's "run for the roses" occurs during the first weekend in May, with its largely unknown history of Black jockeys like Jimmy Winkfield and Isaac Murphy, who dominated the Derby for its first 30 years, only to be replaced by Irish and Anglo riders as the Derby became more commercial and popular.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is in May, along with National Peace Officers' Memorial Day, Public Service Recognition Week, National Teacher's Day and Teacher Appreciation Month, National Historic Preservation Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and American Armed Forces Day.

May is the birthday month of such luminaries as Socrates and Karl Marx, Willie Mays and Biggie Smalls, Ho Chi Minh and John F. Kennedy, the Ayatollah Khomeini, James Brown, John Wayne and Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis and Patti Labelle, plus Bob Dylan and Jim Jones, to name just a few.

In 1963, the newly formed Organization of African Unity established May 25 as African Freedom Day, to celebrate the recent independence of 32 former colonies. In the early 1970s, that formal name was changed by community activists to African Liberation Day, and is now celebrated globally under that sobriquet.