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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

History as Destiny... A Black History Month Reflection

"Don't forget your history;
Know your destiny:
In the abundance of water,
The fool is thirsty."- Bob Marley


There is an old saying that:  "It doesn't matter how tall your grandfather was, you have got to do your own growing". Keep this in mind. Ever since the early decades of the 20th century it has been our custom to set time aside to commemorate the contributions of African Americans to American society in particular, and to the development of human civilization in general. This period of reflection on this significant topic is also observed in Canada and the United Kingdom. February is Black History Month in the United States. During this month every year we make an effort to bring to the fore the achievements of persons of African descent here and all over the world throughout history. The celebration of the achievements of Black People is especially significant in a culture in which the Supreme Court once ruled that " Blacks were not American citizens and could never be citizens, ... ... Because slaves were property, not people, ..." (The Dred Scott Decision)

So for the last hundred or so years we have been reminding ourselves of the great achievements of our ancestors and those among us who have done and continue to do great work to benefit mankind. And we have been educating the racist bigots among us, who in their hate infused ignorance would deny us a place at the table of prosperity, not just about our essential humanity; but about the fact we have contributed in no small measure to the development and advance of human knowledge and accomplishments. From the Arts and Sciences to Religion and Politics, from the creation of great literary works and music to the construction of remarkable architecture; we have been and continue to be significant contributors to the building of the enterprise called human civilization. The list of our contributions to the development of society in all these areas is long and continues to grow. Resources to inform ourselves of such contributions exist in great abundance to those interested enough to avail themselves of such knowledge. (The Eurocentric propaganda that has consistently sought to treat us as nonentities in History has been well debunked. Click on this link for some great examples of Black scholars doing this debunking work. Knowledge is most empowering!)
10 Black Scholars Who Debunked Eurocentric Propaganda

And so each February we are called to a process of being empowered through the affirmation of the significant role that those who look like us have played and continue to play in History. We are justly proud of that role. It makes us feel good about ourselves and our potential and promise. We experience a great vindication as we give the lie to the effort of bigots who would treat us as unworthy by seeking to systematically tear us down through the tyranny of hatefulness. This is all good, but to be completely honest we must acknowledge the fact that there is much work that we must still do to live up to the promise and potential of greatness that we would celebrate. 

Bob Marley is an example of prophetic and artistic greatness in our time. We celebrate his Earth Day (Birthday) every year in this month also. He aptly reminds us :  "Don't forget your history; Know your destiny: In the abundance of water, The fool is thirsty."  The truth of this statement is powerful and timely. In this statement Marley echoes the wisdom of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the great educator and visionary who was adamant about the old piece of African wisdom that: "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." Yes, History informs Destiny. Where we have been and what we have done is an indicator of where we can go and what we can do. On our road to greatness we need the quenching of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding that is all around us. Sadly... Unfortunately... In the abundance of water, many of us remain thirsty. We are parched because we ignore the oases of knowledge and wisdom all around us. The result of this is evidenced in the absence of industry that afflict existentially de-energized people.

 In the midst of our annual celebration of Black History Month we are reminded that it is not enough to just recall and feel good about what some among us have done. The consciousness of the potential greatness that lies within us as a promise must find fulfillment through a dedicated effort to make our lives count in all the ways we can. Each one of us must be about that task. In every way we can... no matter how small we may think our contribution is, we must do what we can to make our lives count. Through education and industry, we must execute our duty to make our world better. There is no task too small. Wherever we find ourselves, and in whatever position, we must do our work to the best of our abilities. We must never stop looking for opportunities to develop the gifts and abilities we have... to make ourselves better, and to ensure that our descendants prosper. As we celebrate the life and efforts of great men and women of all ethnic origins, let us be reminded of that old saying :  "It doesn't matter how tall your grandfather was; you have got to do your own growing".

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