Honoring Untold Stories.. Writing, Witnessing, and Illuminating our African-American past

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson launched “Negro History Week” in the 2nd week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Black History Month was later established in 1976. Woodson fervently believed that Black people should be proud of their heritage and that all Americans should understand the largely overlooked achievements of Black Americans. Yet the burying of information remains a challenge.

In our current cultural, social and political world, we are living in a tremendous amount of struggle. Politicians, journalists, scholars and average citizens are witnessing a major challenge to democracy…

Dictatorships and authoritative governments are on the rise as Extremists populism seems to provide hope for people who are feeling bouts of hopelessness.

And in looking at the world today, one of our greatest threats to democracy is dis- information and misinformation. We are all kind of left wondering and shaking our heads… Where do we turn to find the truth?

We have “fake news” websites. There’s talk of alternative facts. Even the things that we see on television and videos may not be real. There’s Artificial Intelligence making Harrison Ford to look like a man in his 30s for his final Indiana Jones film. Amazing and yet, quite scary. Magazine covers have photoshopped models and celebrities for decades, successfully making these images to become “perfect.” The end result is a human body and face photographed without a mark or wrinkle. No blemish there for the naked eye to see.

We are told that the sermon on the mount and the “Beatitudes” is too woke. Helping the poor? Whoever thought of such a thing! And of course, the current trend of removing Black history in public schools.

We have current political candidates that say there is no such thing as racism. There was even a textbook published saying that Rosa Park refused to move to the back of the bus, but no mention of the reason why. I suppose even saying that people don’t get along will hurt school children.

With our current crisis and problems, if we look to nature, we may find a better path towards understanding. For example, take climbing hikes. An often difficult task that may involve rock scrambles using your hands to help you go up a mountain. The sheer physical toll on the body with climbing is notable. There is a certain level of pain and suffering, but if you push through and keep climbing, the view is clear, beautiful, breath-taking and above all, peaceful, once you reach the summit.

In some ways, trying to find understanding of our perceptions of truth is like climbing mountains. There is pain in pursuing knowledge and information about African-American history, which of course is not separate from the history of the United States as a whole. The history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, which includes kidnapping, the rape of Black women, bondage, torture, and the selling of men, women and children for generations. To learn of these horrific accounts is the painful climb up the side of a mountain; wanting to turn back, but continuing on anyway.  Afterwards, we all come out on the other side and with something very important… Illumination.

We can then gain a better understanding of the self. We learn that one person’s suffering is all people’s suffering. We begin to feel that there must be efforts made to find resolution and peace. This is where meditation helps as an aid to us.

Mindfulness as a daily practice is beneficial, as well as movement of the body. Activities like forest bathing, hiking, cycling, yoga, etc help us in our search for well-being.

Honoring the legacy of African-American history is to continue onward. Reflecting on the achievements and the struggles are a constant reminder of where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. These stories and narratives must be told, no matter how painful; and all of us, regardless of our ethnic background, must hear these voices because they speak for all of humanity. And in so doing, we can then celebrate the journey and triumph of reaching the highest heights, in spite of adversity, together.

May we find solace in this ongoing work! For your listening pleasure, please enjoy Sweet Honey in the Rock – “This Place Inside Where I can Rest.”

Featured Image Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash