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Black History Month

Today is the first day of Black History Month. Chris Rock, in his Nat X persona, once said" The Man gives us February because it's the shortest month of the year!".  I mentioned this skit to someone in my family and he responded that maybe that was the truth.

I did a little research and found out that Black History Month was  started as Negro History Week back in 1926 by African American historian Carter Woodson. It  was the second week in February. When the word "Negro" fell out of favor, it became Black History Week and in 1976 was expanded into Black History Month. So the choice of February had nothing to do with it's shortness.

It's traditional during Black History Month to celebrate the achievements of famous African Americans. One unfairly ignored African American is John Rogers. John Rogers is the manager of the Ariel Fund, a small-cap mutual fund. In 2004 his was the best performing mutual fund of the year. I saw this mentioned once in USA Today, and never heard a word about it again. I thought it was a damn shame that this wasn't more widely reported and still do. I have the Ariel Fund in my IRA. It is not doing well now, but that is mostly because we are in a bear market and small caps always perform the worst in a bear market. I know I'll be glad I have it when I retire. (BTW, while I'm very happy to have this fund in my portfolio, don't buy it just because of this blog entry. Always do your due diligence. I realize I might be giving myself too much credit for persuasiveness here, but I'd rather unnecessarily sound arrogant than take a chance on leading someone astray in their finances.)

An African-American political writer I admire is Thomas Sowell.  G. Gordon Liddy has called him "the smartest man in America". As you might guess from the mutual endorsement of myself, and Mr. Liddy, he is a conservative. He has written 27 books ( I base this on counting the books listed on his wikipedia page) , one of which is The Vision Of The Anointed, a personal favorite. One of my  all time favorite quotes comes from Sowell: "It is amazing how many people mistake a certain hip snideness for sophistication."

Sowell was born not far from here, in Gastonia. Gastonia is the butt of a lot of jokes, but Sowell is a native son to be proud of.
Even if you don't like his politics, he's a better representative than Fred Durst.

If you're not in the market for a mutual fund or a book on conservative politics, you might want to check out a sorely underpraised film that showcases some fine African-American acting talent. The movie I refer to is Johnny Handsome. This is generally not considered African-American cinema, but it features great performances by two of our best African-American actors, Forest Whitaker and Morgan Freeman. The title character (played by Mickey Roarke) is a recently paroled convict with a disfigured face.
Forest Whitaker is a plastic surgeon who fixes his defects gratis, and believes that this will allow him a new lease on life and a chance to go straight. Morgan Freeman is a cynical cop who believes he won't become a model citizen just because his face looks better. These are very allegorical characters, and in the hands of lesser actors would have been merely allegorical, but Whitaker and Freeman breathe life into them. I'm not sure how available this movie is on DVD, but if you get a chance, see it.

It didn't occur to me until I started writing that last paragraph, but the points of view represented by Whitaker and Freeman  correspond to the two views of human nature that Thomas Sowell contrasts in The Vision Of The Anointed. It's amazing how things connect sometimes.