by Roy Douglas Malonson, Chairman
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.—Marcus Garvey
In light of what we are witnessing on a daily basis in our community, I was reflecting on the above quote by the great Marcus Garvey. We have been robbed of our history and we have allowed ourselves to become comfortable with being uneducated about our past greatness and suffering.
We MUST Understand that our children will never have a full comprehensive knowledge and understanding of what is going on now, if they do not know what happened yesterday. Nor can we properly prepare for what is ahead in the future.
We thought integration was “Heaven on Earth” and it lulled us to sleep to the reality that our struggle was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning. We somehow quickly forgot about the fire hoses, the brutal beatings while crossing bridges for civil rights, the dogs, the lynchings, the public humiliation we faced while trying to integrate lunch counters and much more. We thought we had “arrived” when we could go to school with Whites and share the same restroom with them, when just a few years prior we could not even be buried in the same cemetery as them.
Past generations have to take responsibility for our young people not knowing the full history because we took our eyes off of the prize. We got comfortable and thought our open enemy was no longer our enemy so we did not pass on to our children the non watered-downed horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the non romanticized abuse on the cotton fields, or the infiltration of our organizations at the hands of COINTELPRO. And maybe most importantly, we did not tell them that our history goes beyond inventing a streetlight or a hot comb, but that we built unmatched civilizations pre-slavery, that are buried under the sands of Africa.
We foolishly thought that they would get this knowledge inside the classrooms of America, but received a rude awakening. Our children continue to be robbed of their true history in the public school system and are being force fed lies and misinformation that makes them think less of themselves and the history of their own people. We cannot blame the schools. They are doing exactly what they are designed to do.
We have to teach our babies the real history and it cannot just happen in February during what is called Black History Month. Black History needs to be a year-round comprehensive curriculum that first starts in the home. Our history is more than just the “I Have A Dream” speech and sound bites from other past great civil rights leaders.
Who will stand today and teach our children the true history? Who among us is taking the time out of their day to have children gather around them to hear stories of the struggles of Black people? And who among the young generation is eager to sit at the feet of their elders and learn this history? Real education is not equated with just obtaining a high school diploma or a college degree.
Carter Godwin Woodson began Negro History Week, later Black History Month in February, in 1926, earning him the nickname “The Father of Black History.” He was the leader of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History based in Chicago. Woodson was a strong advocate for the study of Black history and he would spread his stance throughout the pages of The Journal of Negro History. He would later publish a book titled, “The Mis-Education of The Negro.”
In the book his writes, “Philosophers have long conceded, however, that every man has two educators: ‘that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. Of the two kinds the latter is by far the more desirable. Indeed all that is most worthy in man he must work out and conquer for himself. It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment. What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.”
Woodson further writes, “If you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race. Such an effort would upset the program of the oppressor in Africa and America.”
We MUST Understand that education and preserving one’s history is serious warfare. When we are cut off from our history we will continue to be like a tree without roots: DEAD!