Saturday, January 31, 2015
REFLECTIONS ON BLACK HISTORY MONTH
The month of February has been designated as Black History Month. In our celebration of Black History, many of us are reflecting on just what black history means to us today, in 2015. The motion picture Selma has just been released and it graphically shows important aspects of the civil rights struggle during the turbulent 60’s. Some have spoken of the bygone days of slavery, segregation and racial discrimination. Some have spoken of the civil rights movement; of Dr. King and our struggle for civil rights and to be recognized as human beings. It was our collective dream to be treated as equals with other Americans, with respect and dignity. And some still champion our continuing fight for equality in housing, education, and employment. Many of us have spoken of the Black men and women who fought and died in every one of America’s wars to ensure the freedoms we all enjoy today.
As Americans, we all come to this land under many different circumstances. Some as explorers; some as pioneers; some as fugitives and immigrants. And some of us came to America as the chattel property of another…as Slaves. It is to this latter circumstance that the majority of Black Americans find their origin in America. It was not a voluntary migration to these shores by our ancestors. They were attacked, rounded up and shipped here under inhuman conditions. Our people worked for 379 years of forced, unpaid labor in the fields and homes of their slave masters. That is three-plus centuries of being bred like cattle and inbred among family members; abused; tortured for sport and murdered at will by these same slave masters. The then Negro slaves were set free from the physical chains of slavery, by President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.
The slaves were free at last! Free to do what?? It was a deceptive freedom! They were free in body to some extent, however, in numerous southern states their standing and treatment remained the same. Many faced harsh restrictions on where they could live and what occupations they could pursue. Their minds were still in chains! They were totally unequipped to earn a living for themselves in this new world with their new found freedom. To their surprise, they still found mistreatment and abuse, as they tried to live in harmony with their former slave masters.
All they knew was the plantation life! So many of them entered into indentured slavery to survive. They etched out a meager living by sharecropping in the south, and factory work in the northern cities that would allow them work. They were continually denied human rights and attacked and lynched by the very people they so faithfully served. They adapted, overcame and survived! We today are not only the product of these sturdy, determined people, but we are the beneficiaries of all their sufferings and sacrifices! Now, we have entered into a new and marvelous age. An age where the world has witnessed and it has been proven, that a person can go as far as his dreams will allow him.
Our history as a people is one that everyone can learn from. Particularly, the Black children and youth of today! They need to be taught their history from its earliest beginnings to the current day affairs. If you would take a random survey of our youth today, you would be surprised to know that our children know little or nothing about their Black History. They know more about Rappers and Athletes like Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, J-Low, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Ray Rice, then they know about the celebrated history and contributions of Black Americans to this country. The list of notable Black Americans is too long for this article. However, I must mention a few of them, like Benjamin Banneker, who laid out the design plans for the city of Washington, DC…or Garrett A. Morgan, who invented the gas mask and the traffic signal, or Dr. Charles Drew, who perfected the techniques of preserving plasma and made blood transfusions and blood banks possible.
Our children are taught a few cursory things that only scratch the surface of Black History. They learn nothing to even remotely compare with the knowledge other nationalities learn about their history and the race pride they develop as a result of this learning. It appears today that black people tend to be ashamed of “from whence we came!” I hear it all the time from young people; they say “that is the past…let it go….forget it!” “Nobody cares about what happened way back then.” Here’s a question for those closed minded young people…… Are other nationalities forgetting their history? Don’t even try to think about it! The answer is emphatically NO! Other nationalities who make up this country, are all embracing their history and cultures. They are teaching their history to their children and have found a great sense of pride, as a result of doing so. They have motivated their young people to be high achievers; to be successful and a credit to their heritage and country. White Americans are taught to “Remember the Alamo,” “Remember Pearl Harbor” and “Remember 9-11.”
Black Americans on the other hand avoid talking about our tragic history like a plague. We hold up a few prominent and successful people as our heroes, while ignoring the sacrifices and achievements of countless unsung notables, in science, medicine, engineering, agriculture, industry, literature, and the arts. These are our ancestors! These are the brave men and woman who sacrificed their all, suffered unspeakable deprivation and humiliation so that today, up from slavery; one of our people holds the highest office in this land. The Office of President of the United States! I have be asked, what does Black History mean to me? To answer that, I have to carefully look back, because I was born and lived through an era of both advancement in technology, wars and civil rights struggles! A time when Americans went to the moon and Black Americans were set upon with fire hoses and dogs for seeking civil and basic human rights.
When I look about today and see our young men sagging, bagging, bragging and cursing using the derogatory term “Nig--r”…… When I see our young ladies dressing indecently with no sense of modesty and allowing themselves to be used and abused……. When I see the proliferation of drugs in our communities and schools……When I see the disintegration of our families, by fathers and mothers divorcing and leaving their children to raise themselves ….When I see our youth dropping out of school at all grade levels and not pursuing a college education…… When I see our Church leaders become lax in teaching, leading and standing for the Gospel by making compromises with the world....Then I know a substantial number of our people do not have a clue about the true significance of Black History Month!
What should Black History Month mean to us today?? Three words come to mind when I consider the national celebration of this month; Accountability, Gratitude and Thanksgiving!
1) It should mean Accountability! We have a responsibility to hand down to our children, their true history; their cultural heritage and allow them to know the struggles and accomplishments of their people, who were former slaves…. That they may also develop a sense of race pride! We who know, are held accountable for not doing so!
2) It should mean Gratitude! That we today are showing our appreciation for the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and paved the way with their lives, for the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy today! We do this by carrying ourselves as decent human beings; respecting the rights of others; standing firm in our faith and not degrading ourselves before the world with ignorant, indecent behavior. We must encourage our children that they can be more than athletes and entertainers performing for others.
3) It should mean Thanksgiving! Being thankful to our God that we are Americans and born of a people who withstood the worst treatment afforded any people in the history of the world; and we survived it all! We are indeed, the greater takers! We are now able to stand and point proudly to the contributions of Black Americans to this great nation of ours and the world.
In this Black History month, we as a people must not forget from where we came and the sacrifices that countless Black Americans made to our present-day freedoms! We should celebrate and joyously honor the memory of our for-parents and current Black Americans who have contributed to prosperity of our American Society. There should be local and national celebrations in every state; in the schools, churches and public arenas; so that all the populace can share in the recognition of the struggles and successes of Black People in America! I remain hopeful that this generation of young Black Americans will wake up, acknowledge and claim their heritage; proudly honoring all who went before!
by Min. Douglas Daniels
Your comments are welcomed!