By Amala Nath
After a month full of film screenings, speeches and panel discussions, this year's Black History Month ended with some good humor. Comedians brought down the house at the Black History Comedy Slam February 27 hosted by the Black Student Union (BSU), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and HaHa Hofstra.
The show gave a look at the history of black comedy along with performances by Alex Barnett and Mike Brown, two comedians who shared how they were greatly influenced by race as children.
When Barnett was growing up in on Long Island, Black History Month was not something his white, prominent, Jewish community celebrated.
It was 15 years ago that he began to recognize and value the contributions African-Americans have made as part of the ideology behind Black History Month.
"Black History Month is the improper title for this month. What we're actually celebrating is American history," Barnett said. "So much of what American is, is due to the contribution of black people."
Today, Barnett is happily married to his wife, who is African-American and together, they are raising their four-month- old son. The comedian looks forward to celebrating Black History Month every year with his son and wife. He is proud to be a part of his wife and son's culture. However, he shows concern for his son's future.
"I'm mostly worried about my son resenting me because I am white and won't be able to understand some of his experiences due to race," Barnett said. "I'm also worried about the discrimination he may face but thankfully I see the world improving each day. Our society is more multicultural than ever today."
Brown shared a different definition for Black History Month.
"Black History Month means everyone's going to be watching what I do more intensely," said Brown.
Raised in a Jamaican household in Queens, Brown constantly worried about falling into the negative stereotypes that dealt with his race. He never encountered any racial problems until moving to Harlem to complete high school.
"The other kids thought it was cool to act like a "thug," said Brown. "I was constantly told ‘you're not acting black' because I didn't dress or portray myself the same way they did."
Brown originally went to college to get a degree for teaching math. He realized this career didn't make him happy, so he decided to branch out and started exploring other job choices.
After graduating from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a degree in creative writing, Brown pursued comedy, something he knew he wanted to do since he was young.
"I think everyone needs to ask themselves what they would want to do for free and then learn how to make money off of it," said Brown. "If you love what you do, you'll never need to work."