“Our history and culture is our immune system.”
According to whether or not the year leaps or not, February 28th marks the end of what should always be a national celebration of the achievements and contributions made by African-Americans in America – National Black History Month. Despite slavery, government imposed oppressive conditions under which they were made and the lack of routine appropriate vehicles of credit and recordkeeping for tremendous accomplishments, and efforts of denial, it is clear that African-Americans have lifted America in extraordinary ways. In education, politics, science and arts, literature and philosophy there is no absence of an abundance of achievement by our people. Every American or foreign visitor has experienced our footprint and infusion of cultural richness in the short and painful time of our existence in this nation.
The extraordinary people, inventions, music, dance, art and thoughts of our people recorded or passed along orally are treasures that we all share. Black History Month has become a tradition. I was a young girl when it was still Black History Week and the only public acknowledgement was within segregated schools and communities, and Black publications. Growing up Black in the South the facts and episodes of our history, the people, their images and their oration was made sacred by my parents, grandparents and people in our community. People like Ida B. Wells, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson and W.E.B. DuBois were honored and familiar visitors at our breakfast and dinner table. My Mother spoke of the women and for such a long time, I really thought that they were her friends who lived elsewhere. My Father spoke bleeding his expression with the words of dead men, Carver, Garvey and Douglas recalling their words as though they had relayed them directly to him. Telling the tales of a Harlem in Renaissance, of a budding Malcolm and the lives women crooners named Billie, Sarah who sang with the Duke, and laughed with Dizzy and Louie. My Dad danced the Savoy and lounged the Paradise and boldly breathed the air of Black progress and pain. The books, the authors, required and yearned for, bought, shared and placed on shelves for prosperity. The speeches learned and kept close to the heart. The people, and the events that they recalled was testimony validating and affirming the character of the lives of Black folks. Enumerating Black worth in America and checking the validity of the equation. An account so carefully recorded- a burden so deftly carried. Black people waiting for the Pittsburgh Courier and the Ebony magazine for assurance that they were real.
So many years later, I not only seek our history to bind my life, but see into it as I navigate forward. This is what we do during this month of February. We raise it up, make it a sacred light illuminating the pathways of our future. It makes us real in the universe, assured that we will always have a special brand of hope which is ours and ours alone. All through the year, we must spend our time putting our lives, the echo of who we are into the record, sorting it and ordering it to build the bridges that will take us safely across.
Thanks for joining with us at OUR COMMON GROUND, or supporting our efforts at OUR COMMON GROUND to honor the ritual to lift up the journal of the Black experience in America. #HistoryMatters
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