Black History Month

When I was about 10 years old, walking down a narrow sidewalk in a small town with my mom, an elderly black man came walking toward us. As he drew closer he tipped his hat and stepped off the sidewalk to allow mom and me to pass. We smiled at him, said hello and thank you. Following that incident, I asked my mother why he did that. Her reply: because many white people expect that but we know it isn’t right. I’ve never forgotten that moment and did indeed know it wasn’t right. Mom didn’t give me a long drawn out explanation. Her comment was more than enough! She knew his life mattered and conveyed it to her 10-year-old daughter with succinct clarity! Yes, Black Lives Matter!

A few years later, in 1954, BROWN VS. TOPEKA BOARD OF KANSAS was passed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The essence of this court case, headed up by Justice Thurgood Marshall, denied the decision of a previous court case that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional and, therefore, schools should be integrated ‘with all deliberate speed. . . .’ There were two schools in Gallipolis; one named Washington, the other called Lincoln. Lincoln, an all black dilapidated facility closed and the black children came to Washington, at that time the all white school. Maxine Jenkins, a black girl, became one of my best friends. In our small town, there was quite a bit of diversity. I recall Christians of a number of denominations (Catholics were a small minority), Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, and numerous ethnic groups. It worked! Today we know the reality of school segregation continues to have harmful effects on both white and black children.

However, today we have a movement, (not a passing moment!) called BLACK LIVES MATTER! It began after the killing of Trayvon Martin. For those who lived through, within or know it by studying history; I believe it continues the thread of black resistance to white oppression from Slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, up to the present day. This movement, with many local chapters, focuses on the value and dignity of black persons and is striving to affect systemic institutional change as it relates to economics, politics, education, religion, housing. Poverty and marginalization are central topics to all issues. I believe it’s important at this time to recall the words of author, Anne Wilson Schaef who tells us:

“To affirm my reality is not to deny you yours.”

I believe the vision of this movement is captured as part of the introduction of their website (http://www.blacklivesmatter.com): Black Future Month. The evident commitment in young people today, along with their ‘elders’, recalls for me the words of Martin L. King, Jr. years ago:

“You ought to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days. . . .”

Note: To access my past blogs on Racism go to Archives, the following months: July 2013 – Trayvon Martin, August-2013, February-2014, January-2015, May-2015 (http://www.paradigmsshifting.org/category/blog/