During my youth, my father and I would watch the news together and we saw Malcolm X speak about freedom, civil rights marchers attacked by dogs, students refused service at lunch counters, the bodies of murdered civil rights workers and Thurgood Marshall talk about winning the Brown vs. The Board of Education case before the Supreme Court. We also saw black men that were hung from trees, black churches that were bombed, black children murdered and these events taught me that the holocaust of Africans and Native Americans, which began the moment the settlers came ashore at Jamestown, continued. In retrospect, I can now see how what I saw then was news, but now it’s black history.
To me, as a black man, I see black history as more than something to celebrate. I also see it as something that is constantly being rewritten and waiting for our contribution. The contribution we make can and will come in different forms and to make our contribution, we are not limited to giving speeches, marching, getting arrested, or winning a landmark decision before the Supreme Court. One of the most important forms of our contribution is that of parents because our children are the future of black history, and the moment we became parents we also became co-authors of their contributions. Although we have already written a part of black history we are not finished writing. We still have more to say and how we say it will determine how another part of our history will be written.
One contribution we can make is to tap into our wealth of experience and share that experience with our youth. We know where illegal drugs can take them, what education can make them, what a gun can do to them, and how having respect for others can save them. Schools teach our children how to make a living, not how to live. So as a result, our children learn more about life, on the school bus than they do in the school classroom. We have a message to share, however, if we don’t take the time and make the effort to share that message, it will become a message our children may never hear. Just like us, our youth have lessons to learn, and how they learn those lessons will determine their contribution to the future of black history. So by sharing our experiences, we can play a major role in determining whether their lessons and contributions will be peaceful or painful.
As we recognize our black history of the past, let us also consider the black history of the future; because the future black history will not only be determined by what we do, it will also be determined by what we don’t do.