Black History Is American History
Think of Black History Month, and chances are you think in turn of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., maybe Marcus Garvey. It’s a familiar group — and that, says Alex Pierce, is precisely the problem. “It’s become a way to pack a few hundred years of history into one 28-day month of the year,” the Texas-based designer and art director says. And so this month, Pierce launched Black in History, a blog to highlight the accomplishments of influencers like Gerald Anderson Lawson, the inventor of the video game console, Roy L. Clay Sr., the “Black Godfather of Silicon Valley,” and jazz great Nat King Cole. We talked to Pierce about his love/hate relationship with Black History Month.
Your day job is in advertising. Has that made you a cynic?
I would say I’m more sensitive than some to the strange relationship advertising has with black people. It’s not all bad, believe me, but I do cringe when Black History Month comes rolling around and a few brands decide to change their jingles to soul-R&B music and feature more colorful people in their broadcast spots and print ads. My family laughs about it all the time. I get it — it’s a great way to tie your brand to an important message while selling some stuff. I’m not necessarily against that. It’s just when it’s done bad, it’s pretty bad. Black history in a lot of advertising has become a way to say something without really saying anything at all.