I am Black History

Photo by Charlie Maib, Graphic to accompany editorial "I Am Black History" by Rodney Plant
Photo by Charlie Maib, Graphic to accompany editorial "I Am Black History" by Rodney Plant

I am Black History

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District

As a child, I often wonder how race could make humans so violent and intolerant of one another. Having been born during the turmoil of the Civil Rights Era, I found myself entangled in the mobs of demonstrators, fire hoses, police with batons, and even worst, police dogs. All of this was just walking to and from elementary school as a child. Therefore, I paid a lot of attention in school during history lessons, hoping to find my answer. However, the answer to my question was never found by listening to American history. The class would always end with a calm norm that did not quite match my experiences of getting to and from school. Something was always missing from the lesson. They were just the watered-down, carefully chosen words of someone who did not have to walk the same streets as me. Out of sight, out of mind.

The history they taught in school had no screams, yells, chaos, bloodshed, tear gas, or riot gear. Missing within the lesson were teachers telling the class to stay away from the windows while pulling the shades and instructing everyone to get under their desk. We sometimes learned an entire school day on the floor underneath rather than seated at the desk. We learned that Blacks had fled the southern states for the better opportunities and lesser violence of the northern states, which sounded more like an oxymoron considering the nightmare that unfolded on an almost daily basis in the streets around me. Blacks in the south could not vote, and blacks in the north had nothing to vote for. Missing were the situations that were happening around me every day. As I would close my youthful eyes and reflect on the day’s events, I would see how those batons, fire hoses, dogs, bean bags, and rubber bullets did not discriminate between age or gender.

Eventually, I would find a means of escape from it all; but that is another story.

At this moment, I only want to share why keeping Black History relevant to everyone is essential to me as a person. As I grew older, from time to time, I would witness something that would make my mind go back to my childhood and reflect on how violent and traumatic life seemed at that time.

Time and time again, when we think about celebration it evolves around those who have found success. Unfortunately, this leaves groves of people of color that have contributed to this country feeling ostracized and less celebrated, especially in a country that had written its laws to purposely exclude people of color from achieving success of any kind. Black History Month affords the nation with the prospect to hear the voices and proficiencies of people who have historically been relegated, ignored, beleaguered, and disregarded in our country.

Held up to the standard of equality put forth in the Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Black History Month serves not as a down payment on that dream. Rather it is a default on our promissory note of equality, liberty, and justice for all people regardless race, religion, color or creed.

“The riches of freedom and the security of justice and to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. That now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” - Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

But now that note has come due.

Black History Month allows me to audit my own contributions to Dr. Kings dream of equality for all people of this nation. This is the American dream. It reminds me to continue to strive to succeed, striding forward on a positive azimuth of contribution to this nation until we have all together sewn and mended the rips of prejudice. The tears rendered raw from hatred and intolerance; until there is no longer a need for a celebration of a single race, but rather the celebration of all races as a whole. The celebration of a nation, not a skin color. Only then can that promissory note considered paid and all debts wiped free.

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