Today is the beginning of Black History month, and for the second day in a row, several HBCUs we’re the target of bomb threats; now more than ever, with certain segments of our society seemingly determined to turn back the clock while simultaneously restricting the teaching of history, we must take every measure to learn about our heritage and be proud of not only how as a people we have overcome the barriers put in place to keep us down but be proud of the vast contributions African Americans have made to this country. Contributions that have made us an indelible part of its fabric.
I wake every morning, look in the mirror, and marvel at my beautiful black skin. My skin tells the world who I am. It announces that I am part of a unique group of people. Oppressed for centuries, our souls were never shackled, our spirits were never broke. The fire that burns within each of us was never extinguished. The sun shines upon this earth, giving all of us life, but it is my black skin that absorbs its energy and radiates with beauty. My skin is but one shade of a grand mosaic that is black; be it pecan, caramel, milk chocolate, or cacao, one thing is certain, they are all beautiful. Each day I look to the heavens and thank the Lord for my black skin because it declares openly to the world that I am special, I am strong, I am unique; I am black and I am beautiful.
Some say there should be no Black History Month, and to be honest, I wholeheartedly agree with them. Not because of the reasons they cite for its elimination but rather because you cannot neatly package the black American experience, the acomplishments, and the past and present injustices into 7.67% of the calendar year.
One of the characteristics that make America great is that it is the product of the numerous and vastly different cultures that have come together in one place to make a better life for themselves and, in the process, make this country a better place. Like so many other groups, black Americans have and continue to leave an indelible imprint on this country’s greatness. From Crispus Attucks, widely considered to be the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War, to former President Barack Obama, to Vice President Kamala Harris, this country and what it is today would not be what it is if not for the accomplishments of the black American. Yet for all its greatness, America also bears an unpleasant stain on its resume, and we would be remiss to ignore or pretend it does not exist. This stain is not merely Black history. It is American history, and it must be taught to future generations and discussed in an honest and open dialogue. As Frederick Douglass said, “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” That unpleasant stain is, of course, America’s treatment of the Black American. From the stripping of our culture to the chains of bondage forced upon us; From the lash of the whip to the rape of our women: From the separation of families to the denial of even the most basic education for our young; From the countless number of non-prosecuted cases of murder to the reign of terror carried out by such terrorist organizations like the KKK; From the institutional and legalized discrimination practiced under Jim Crow to today’s use of discriminatory lending, hiring and housing practices. The black American experience has been met with countless hurdles throughout American history. Those hurdles cannot nor should they be expected to be neatly packaged into 7.67% of the calendar year. The past is not a comfortable one to remember but remember it; we must know that the suffering of millions of black Americans wasn’t in vain. So that as a country, we can learn and grow from the mistakes of our past so that it can never happen again. And so that young black Americans can grow up with the understanding that despite all we have been through as a people, not only are we are still here, but we have, and we continue to accomplish great things every day. As a nation, the only way we can continue to grow and maintain our excellence is if we move forward together as one. Black Americans still face many obstacles in this country, but it is our country. We have fought for it and died for it; we have contributed to its excellence and flaws. We are as much a part of the fabric of this country as any other group. So no, the Black experience is not just something that should be acknowledged for only 7.67% of the year because Black history is American history, and that is the history we all make every day.
I defended my country, the country I love, in WWII, but I was denied service at the lunch counter when I came home.
I defended my country, the country I love, in the Vietnam war, but when I came home, they turned the fire hoses on me when I dared to vote.
I defended my country, the country I love, in the Iraq war, but when I came home, the police still stopped and frisked me for no reason.
I am a person of color, and I joined the military, and I am a veteran today because I love my country.
Yes, I love America, but America has not treated me fairly. America has enslaved me, segregated me, denied me the right to vote, denied me equality in housing, wealth opportunities, and education. It has jailed me at in-proportioned numbers. Slowly I have seen things change, gotten better. But these changes did not happen by themselves. I had to stand up to the country I love and demand that it lives up to the promise that it was founded on – All men are created equal. I did not stand up to America because I hate it. I did not kneel in solidarity because I disrespect it. I did it because I love my country, and make no mistake; it is as my country as much as anyone’s because despite the obstacles I had to and continue to endure, I continue to create breath taking masterpieces, inspire others in literature, art and music. Produce life-saving breakthroughs in science and medicine. I continue to achieve great things every day, and with each step, I take forward, I leave an indelible fingerprint on the very fabric of a country. So no matter how hard some may try, I will not be silenced; I will continue to shine a light on social injustice. Continue to demand that America live up to her promise. After all, dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and I love my country.