Another Black History Month, come and gone. But, as the Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes, Jr. said, during a recent visit to St. Luke ”Community” United Methodist Church, the struggle continues.
The struggle is in the classroom, the courts, the streets, out in the community, and yes, in the homes.
We are fighting against enemies known and unknown, as well as those that are in our head.
Which brings me to my truth.
Opal Lee is the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”
During a Black History Month program hosted by the cIty of Dallas, Ms. Lee called on each of us to do our part in solving the problems of the world.
For more than 40 years Ms. Lee led the charge to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday.
For her, it was a labor of love, all for freedom.
Ms. Lee, Lula Briggs Galloway and Clara Peoples (Mother of Juneteenth) were known across the country for their efforts on behalf of the day when enslaved Africans in Texas received word of their emancipation.
While Ms. Galloway died in 2008 and Ms. Peoples in 2016; Ms. Lee was here to see their dream become a reality when in 2021 Juneteenth was first recognized as a federal holiday; with the signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act by President Joe Biden.
I first met Ms. Lee more than 25 years ago when I attended her Juneteenth program where comedian/activist Dick Gregory was the speaker. Her spirit was beautiful then and today.
I still remember joking about the idea of celebrating such a notion but then I came to the realization that there was no other day that celebrated our freedom, and it was worth celebrating so I never joked about Juneteenth again.
And I don’t take kindly to anyone else joking about this monumental time in history, especially when they don’t joke about the Emancipation Proclamation; which if you study history, you know that there’s so much more to the story and what happened years and decades later, leading to the further oppression, torture and disenfranchisement of people of African Ancestry (well those who couldn’t deny or hide their lineage).
This Black History Month was so rewarding for me. It began with Dr. Ben Chavis providing a lesson on the Black Press and its relevance over the past 196 years and Chuck D talking about the 50-year history of Hip Hop, to messages from Atty. Ben Crump at the NAACP Image Awards or the Hon. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Rev. Holmes and culminating with Ms. Lee’s heartfelt expressions.
We must do, as all of the aforementioned said, in so many words, continue to tell our stories and shine a light on the rich and glorious past of our people.
Unfortunately, parts of that past are not so nice and sweet. Actually there are parts, many parts that shine a very negative light on others and if it were me; I’d probably not like for people to know either. But guess what? It happened and no one should be allowed to erase history.
Actually I am so glad that we had valiant women like Mamie Till Mobley, Harriet Tubman and others, in America.
Still, long before 1492, African People had a history and we absolutely can not let anybody, elected or not, stop us from the truth.
In fact, to keep this narrative in the proper perspective, there’s some work we can do as the Black Press.
First, just as we say the names of the “victims,” we need to say the names of the perpetrators. We need to post the pictures of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose lie led to the savage murder of Emmett Till.
Post her picture, along with others who should be in a hall of shame for their descendants to have to learn about.
You say, what good would that do?
Well, just like Ms. Mobley told me that she wanted the world to see what had been done to her son; the world needs to continually see who was at the center of the cruelty.
While we are saying their names, we need to also show “their” faces!
History is important but it has to be truthful. We must continue to tell our stories.
And, more importantly, we have to do the things in our lives that will help us to grow and be in a better position to combat those who want to destroy the past to protect their interests and images. All the more reason to keep the month going, FOREVER.