Black History is a three-sided story for me. There is the history I have lived and witnessed, the stories my research and reading has taught me, and the history my mother and father taught me from their experiences. From my relatively short life, I have seen some of the most amazing changes in America’s social fabric, topped off twice with the election of Barack Obama as President of these United States of America.
I have witnessed television accept Black actors as equals for movies and commercials. I have lived through the period where commercials with Blacks in them were a reason for every Black family to stop what they were doing to watch the spectacle. I have seen and heard the rumors that Blacks can’t swim, can’t play golf, and surely can’t think good enough to play as a Quarterback in football, or be Mayor, Senator, Governor, or President. Well, all that is bunk.
My mother was right when she said you can be anything you put your mind and spirit to. The Declaration of Independence is right when it says that all men are created equal. But along with this truth is that all men can be equally stupid, so as to be so greedy enough to steal and so treacherous and/or emotional enough to kill.
From my research and reading and travel, I have seen Black History up close and personal. I watched and fretted when Robert Johnson got the opportunity to uplift Black America or make money from his BET acquisition but chose instead to promote something that would degrade our people. I fretted and then watched as Oprah Winfrey, when she had the chance, to create the opportunity to uplift America as well as show what African Americans can contribute. Thank God, I was here to watch comedian Richard Pryor stop using the N-word, and I am still waiting on the Rappers to realize that the N-word can’t be mainstreamed in any good way.
I have read James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time”, Eldridge Cleavers’ “Soul on Ice”, and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” I’ve heard the speeches of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, and read the poetry and prose of Langston Hughes. There was a Black Baseball League and now there is just one Black partial owner but no stadium owner, yet.
All progress comes with a price. Frederick Douglass taught us there is no progress without a struggle. On my bookshelf, there is Lerone Bennett’s “Before The Mayflower”, John Hope Franklin’s “From Slavery to Freedom”, telling of our history, and “Roots” by Alex Haley. What is included on your bookshelf?
My family began in Altus, a small rural town in Oklahoma. I learned much there from my parents, before we made the trip to Bakersfield, California. From them, I was introduced to Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar. I heard about discrimination but can’t remember experiencing it until I got to sunny California, in about 1948, and was enrolled into so-called integrated schools. The one thing I learned later that has shaped my life, maybe more than anything else, was being in business for yourself had numerous benefits. My mother had her own store and my father went into business but was stopped by his former, racist boss.
What is your Black History? This Black History Month, learn something about your past, so you never forget where you came from, and share your history with others, especially our children.