BEFORE RECONCILIATION: PART 2
BLACK HISTORY: A Narrative on Resilience
The question is often asked, why black history? And why should we teach students in schools? This is especially true in light of proposed legislation (HB1218, HB1231) in our state of Arkansas, is designed to intentionally suppress the teaching of Black history and other issues of diversity and inclusion.
As of now, these two bills did not pass in Arkansas, but support was strong and has yet to be fully resolved. Yet, the question remains why we should teach black history in our schools? What is there to learn?
Some common reasons given are ‘Black history is deeply rich and beautiful’, ‘ Black history is American history, ‘Black people helped build this country’, ‘American history is incomplete if it doesn’t include the real stories of black people, and black history reveals the truth about America’.
All of these are very much true and good reasons for us to all be students of Black History; yet, none of them are the reason why I am encouraging people to study black history this year. In my opinion, there is no other people group in modern history that gives us a fuller picture of the art of resiliency.
Resiliency is so needed by our world today.
Adversity is ever-present, yet, resiliency is the key to being able to endure and overcome adversity. Where there is more adversity more resiliency is needed. History is our greatest tutor, it would benefit us all to learn from some of history’s most resilient people.
Black people have had to have a posture of resilience from the beginning to survive the trauma of being brought to the Americas as cattle, stripped of every aspect of their native identity. Black people were robbed of their land, language, customs, music, food, names, and ancestral history.
That is enough to break anyone, yet, black people were not broken but carried on through resilience. Black people have created the most influential culture globally. Just think about the cultural influences Black culture has had on the arts, literature, sciences, cuisine, music, entertainment, beauty, innovations, and the list goes on.
Who better to learn from, than those who have had to persevere through that type of adversity? When legally banned from learning to read black people became autodidacts like Ida B. Wells, Phillis Wheatley and Fredrick Douglas.
When not allowed to enter white educational institutions, it was resilient leaders like Bethune Cookman and Booker T. Washington who created their own institutions of higher learning. When robbed of equal civil Liberties Black women and men leaders like Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Daisy Bates (Arkansas Native), MLK, and Malcolm X created the most well-organized, diverse, and successful civil rights movements in history.
It was the unbreakable resilience of black women like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Mammie Till, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz and Angela Davis, who with unwavering courage refused to concede the black dignity that had been stolen from our brothers, sons, sisters and daughters.
It is their resilience that both ignited and sustained black movements for liberation, which served as catalysts for revolutions of justice all around the world. When we put our struggle in perspective compared to the struggles of previous generations of black justice fighters we are connected to a people who received nothing easily but rejection
and pain; yet, they found ways to hopefully endure.
We, Black people, come from an ancestry of people who never laid down and quit, who created beauty from ashes and never let our perspective be determined by temporary circumstances. Resilience is holding onto conviction even when it is much more convenient to let go.
We look at our world and to some degree see people who have a limited paradigm for how to overcome. It’s not by being strong because honestly sometimes you are not strong. We all experience pain, abuse, loss, trauma and grief. Resilience is not being invincible to hardship but not succumbing to it.
Resilience is learning to be tough enough to endure hardship, it is clarity of purpose and conviction of hope, it is learning to be people who lament what is broken in this world; while longing for something much better and more beautiful for future generations. Black resilience has been the spirit of the American social ideal. Let this black
resilience reverberates in your spirits all year, every month, every day.
STILL I RISE – Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still, I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.