March 12, 2009

America Needs Black History Month

Commonality of Interest (Part 1)
America Needs Black History Month
1964 - 1984 - 2009
The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or
the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total
of the education and the character of our people".

Claiborne Pell (1918 - )
The strength of Black History Month (BHM) is the opportunity for us of color to express their commonality and connection with each other. Regardless of the shades and tones of our skin we are coupled from a heritage of African descent. BHM is a time to re-energize our cultural spirituality and allow for cognitive connectivity, not just for emotional impartation of the events of the past as they affect our current and future status in the global socialization and economy. This time allows (although short) to reflect on past struggles and accomplishments, to commit in forging forward despite challenging economics and social integrations and relational collaborations. Bringing to the forefront new leadership with an expanded vision and thanking those of the past for their sacrifices so that we may enjoy the rewards. Just as Marcus Garvey was able to achieve an accord through an ideology of unity and pride which allowed Blacks to ”stand tall and quiet, emitting pride and dignity” (Mills, J. “Marcus Garvey").
A Cultural Balance
Our cultural balance was thrown off by slave ships, plantation life, injustice, indentured servitude, Jim Crow laws, segregation, poverty, denial of educational equality, and equal political representation. All these quests can be summed up in one statement “I Have A Dream”. It is more than a statement, it affirms to several quests as stated by Coretta Scott King in 1984 when she revisited the March on Washington, D. C., which was after the “I Have A Dream” speech of 1964. The March in 1984 had a “Commonality of Interest” to the effect that Mrs. King stated, “this walk is for justice, peace, brotherhood, and equality.” Twenty years earlier in the original March on Washington, D.C. an eloquent and motivational speech was presented by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in the quest of equality in all areas of American life and not just for Blacks specifically, but for all those who were experiencing racism and the denial of human rights. We should not forget nor dishonor the memory of many whites and those of other nationalities that fought beside us. As a result of the March and events leading up to it, a comprehensive Civil Rights Act ( and a Voting Rights Act was signed in 1964. Robert Kennedy made a profound statement, “the number one domestic problem within America is the race problem”. There is still a commonality of interest that people of different shades of color receive the same treatment, the same educational opportunities and representation in government to achieve the same American dream as those of European descent.
Fighting the Fight – Good versus Evil
During the 60’s and 70’s our young people were losing their lives on domestic and foreign battlefields, but now in the new century our young people are still loosing their lives again on two fronts. We are still fighting our never ending battle of good versus evil. Now more than ever, we need BHM; we need to keep holding hands and singing songs, we need our speeches and hymns, we need our spiritual leaders to motivate us and inspire us. Just as Malcolm X commented about the church, “"When you go to a church and you see the pastor of that church with a philosophy and a program that's designed to bring black people together and elevate black people, join that church! ”It prophetesses to the affirmations of “I Have A Dream” and “We Shall Over Come”. A nation keeping its promise to treat its citizen’s equal regardless of their cultural differences. To allow all of its citizens the rights granted by the Constitution of the United States. Reverend Joseph Lowery (SCLC 1984) stated that, ”America has a venture that transcends race, color or creed. This venture breaks through ideologies and nationalities.” The speech that Rev. Lowery shared in 1984 contained similar sentiments that he expressed in 2009 during the inauguration of President Barack Obama. In 1984 he spoke of a “coalition of conscience with Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow still have a dream”. The transcending of sentiments through years does not diminish the desired need of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That all men (women) have inalienable rights such a life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Twenty-five Years Later
On January 20, 2009 just as in 1984 Rev. Lowery’s controversial speech ended with these words, “We are working for that day when Black will not be asked to get back, when Brown can stick around, when yellow can be mella, and when White will be alright”. How true these words today in building bridges to cultural acceptance and societal equality not just tolerance. Spoken as a prophet with a message to the masses these words ring true even in the 21st century. Just as in the 1890’s with Marcus Garvey who spoke in Harlem and throughout the country about the “unity of the spirit”. The power of the voice and of the pen has enabled many to learn of the accomplishments of people both men and women. Twenty-five years brings change in ideologies and sentiments, but the quest for equality and respect remains the same.
President of Color
We have a President of color and a multicultural cabinet that will lead us for the next four maybe eight years. We need Black History Month because Black History is American history; without our history there can be no American history. The interconnected and interrelational connection cannot be undone or denied. Walter Philip Reuther stated that, ”there was a building of a functioning broad coalition of Americans from all walks of life and all points of view, of all races, creeds and colors who can carry on the struggle of fighting discrimination in housing, education, employment and public accommodations” (1984).
These same sentiments transcended into the 21st century where the struggle continues not just for African Americans, but for all those who are exposed to the violation and denial of human rights. Heritage of Civil Rights LeadersJust as Malcolm X stated years ago, ”you wont know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from”. This applies to all of humanity, not just Blacks but Whites as well because of the various cultural combinations that are present. The efforts of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Stockley Carmichael, A. Phillip Randolph, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Rev. Joseph Lowery and others we are able to gain an equal footing in these United States that at one time and still in some cases try to deny our contributions to society. Black History Month allows us to learn that in 1964 a Voting Rights bill was enacted, 1967 Edward Brook, first Black U.S Senator, 1967 Thurgood Marshall, first Black on Supreme Court, Carl Stokes and Richard Hatcher, first Black Mayors of U.S cities, 1968 Shirley Chisolm, first Black woman elected to Congress and later to run for office of President of the United States and 1992 Carol Mosley Braun, first Black woman elected to U.S. Senate and later to run for office of President of the United States. All of their accomplishments and more have allowed January 20, 2009 to happen. The road to the White House is paved with both Black and White blood, both races contributed to the development of our nation’s capital and in historical terms presents a full circle for African Americans. First they built it now one of us lives in it.
As a result of the quest for equality two statements are of equal value even in the 21st century, “I Have A Dream” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1964 ( and “We Shall Over Come” the theme song of the civil rights movement
These statements used in days of political change by our current political leader President Barack Obama. What irony it is today when whites commented there will never be a Black President and Blacks commented one day we will have a Black President. This is just another page in the annuals of Black (American) History.
William Jackson, M.Ed.

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