Each February, I discover more of the past, through the many blog posts and Facebook posts with information on the inventions and contributions of Blacks to American culture. As a little girl, I loved Black History Week, and I was ecstatic when it was made a monthly celebration. Learning of the strength and courage of Black women was especially joyful for me. Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, and Ida B. Wells engendered in me a belief that I, too, could make a difference in the world.
Today, as I read the paper, I was taken aback at seeing Black Barbie dolls in all shades and shapes and hairstyles, and I felt gladness to know that we are seen as beautiful without having to conform to European-Causasian norms seen in the media. Finally, Black is truly seen as beautiful. It is one thing to sing it among ourselves, but quite another to see our beauty as women brought to the fore in such as overt way.
My husband, Douglas, has been reading all the materials about his ancestors that was found among his parents’ possessions, information that goes back to the 1800’s, along with pictures. I envy him the ability to trace his genealogy on his maternal and paternal sides. I can only go back as far as my grandmother, and I have no pictures of me as child or teenager, except my school pictures, which we never had the money for us to buy copies. So discovering the past for me means learning of the accomplishments of others who look like me!
In a discussion with some African immigrants from places like Kenya, Nigeria, and other parts of the Africa, they argued that Blacks in America have no culture, because we cannot trace our genealogy to specific tribes or places in Africa. I agreed that I can’t be sure where my ancestors originated, but the fact that I exist and my children and grandchildren and great-grandchild exist speaks eloquently to the strength and determination of my ancestors, which is in itself something of which to be proud.
We, their descendants, are the evidence that oppression and brutality are not the end of the story, but are testimonies to the strength and endurance of the human spirit. So, Black History Month is a time for me to search the archives and find pictures of black people and remember that we have been a part of the American story for a long time, some 401 years!
Even as I read today of Republican state legislators who are looking at ways to diminish our voting potential, claiming that their intent is a fair and safe election in the future, I revel in knowing that black and brown people voted in historic numbers, using legal means to vote, and elected the first Black and Asian Indian woman as Vice President of the United States. We are still making history for the next generations, and I am truly Black and proud.