The More You Know
I remember with great certainty that history class was by far the subject I truly disliked studying the most. Reason being, I never felt a connection with any of the stories I read in the provided textbooks. What was deemed by the school board as standard for teaching guidelines, left the students lacking and void of their history which is rich in culture and holds centuries of legacy.
James Baldwin stated, “I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history, because it seemed that history had been taught without cognizance of my presence.”
The thoughts of Baldwin would be echoed by many before and after him. Half a century earlier, when Carter G. Woodson, a scholar whose dedication to celebrating the historic contributions of Black people led to the establishment of Black History Month, set the foundation in 1976 for what would become today’s national Black History Month, observed each February.
History has said to have a bad habit of repeating itself. The good, the bad, and often times the ugly. Rewriting the past is impossible, however, helping shape the future is a task we are all faced with and should be concerned with. As times continue to pass me by, the importance of Black history is forever in my mind in hopes that it is never lost.
Knowledge is one of the keys to life, and with it comes a treasure far more precious than any rare gem you could ever find. As we enter into this month long celebration of Black history we are in no way shape or form saying that the other 11 months of the year shouldn’t reflect on the history lessons that are forever there, it is just giving our culture a special moment in time to celebrate and add to the legacies before and long after us.
There are many ways to celebrate Black History month and learn more about the culture, life and legacy of those past and present. A history lesson is not just taught in class, it extends far beyond into your home life, the work that is done in the community, and the ways you can help to continue adding to our rich history.
The more you get involved, the more you know. The more you understand, the more you are able to teach and share. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, it takes time and patience to truly educate yourself on the important facts of our culture. The beautiful thing about history is, once you know more about the past your eyes are now opened to the possibilities of the future. Keeping the stories alive, sharing our life experiences, learning more of our heritage, are all reasons this month is so important and will always be.
“With our future ahead of us and the ancestors beside us, THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN’T DO!”
Free Your Mind
There is something magical when you open the first page of a new book. The peculiar yet ever satisfying smell of dried ink. The crisp and unbothered pages you can't wait to immerse yourself into. Or perhaps it's the excitement of what each new chapter will bring. Soon, you find yourself lost into an exquisitely crafted masterpiece and at the mercy of the author.
As I continue my celebration of Black History month, I must pay homage to the literary geniuses who have molded the craft and art of writing and paved the way for so many to follow in their footsteps. Their legacy and outstanding contributions to Black America and American literature's history will never be forgotten.
Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006)
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Well known for his essays on the Black experience in America, James Baldwin was one of the 20th century's greatest writers. Baldwin moved to France in 1948 to allow himself the freedom to write more about his personal life as a gay man in a homophobic African-American community and a racist society. His time would be spent between the United States and France. Baldwin returned to the US to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. However, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, he permanently returned to Europe. In 1956 Baldwin wrote 'Giovanni's Room' which, told the story of a white man torn between his love for a man and a woman. The novel brought him critical acclaim as a powerful American writer.
"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." -Toni Morrison
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)
Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928. It would be over 20 years before she would be forever and famously known as the beloved Maya Angelou, an acclaimed American poet, storyteller, civil rights activist, playwright, autobiographer, etc. Her name was a combination of her childhood nickname and her then-husbands surname. Author of over 30 books and the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees, she is best known for her 1969 memoir, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'. Maya Angelou will forever be one of the most influential women of all time.
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Toni Morrison (1931-2019)
Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, editor, professor, visionary, Toni Morrison was a brilliant literary force. From 1967 to 1983 she served as the first female African-American editor in Random House history and was credited with giving a voice to black stories. "There are writers that we would not know had she not been in that very crucial position as a black woman in publishing," Angelyn L. Mitchell, a professor of English and African-American studies at Georgetown University.
Richard Wright (1908-1960)
Reading will forever be fundamental, and it allows you to go to that special place and free your mind. Without history, we would be forced to create our own narratives of stories we know nothing of. As a writer, I am honored to share and continue the legacy of these phenomenal writers.
"If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated." -Dr. Carter G. Woodson
There are so many unknown facts and secrets about Black America's history that it would take a lifetime to catch up on all there is to know. Entering 5th grade, I was introduced to what was called 'American History.' Painfully dull, unbelievably forgettable, I recall dreading the time spent in that class every single day. Textbooks filled with endless paragraphs and other meticulously selected subjects designed to control the narrative and silence the knowledge. Feeling forced to absorb a history that was not of my own and instructed to learn, memorize, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I went along with it because it was all that I knew. 'One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' Indivisible human rights are described as follows; “Human rights are indivisible. Whether they relate to civil, cultural, economic, political, or social issues, human rights are inherent to the dignity of every human person. Consequently, all human rights have equal status and cannot be positioned in hierarchical order.”
Love, Peace, and Soul
I've loved music for as long as I can remember. Not sure when the obsession began, I just know I can't live without it. As a '70s baby, I had no idea about the true art of soul and even less knowledge of what it meant to be funky. No pizzazz along with no clue of how to groove to the sound and the feel of the music. It made sense that I was clueless. I was a kid surrounded by larger-than-life afros, bell-bottoms, short dresses, wild colors, and music so funky it caused people to make the ugly face when they heard it.
To understand and appreciate the art, which is music, you have to go back to where it all began, for you. Each musical journey is personal and special. From the music your parents played, to the songs you sang in the church choir music will forever be a vibe that will set the tone for your musical flavor, forever!
Jumping The Broom
From this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor, and to cherish all the days of your life. The wedding vows as shared between a man and a woman signify a bond of commitment, faith, and everlasting devotion. A momentous time of love and uncontrollable bursts of pure elation.
Wedding days are meticulously planned for months, even years in advance. The dress has been chosen, the flowers ordered and the bridesmaids confirmed, all 10 of them. The groom had his tux exquisitely tailored for the perfect fit and his best friends are flying in the day after tomorrow. The intricate details, the pure excitement of the special day play a huge part in what will be the happiest moment of your lives. In the modern-day, the stories of this union between two loves are reminiscent of a fairy tale. As we take a step back nearly 200 centuries, the stories are drastically different.
AJ is a creative writer and storyteller writing from her home in Indiana.
"This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil Gaiman