At the close of Part 1 of this series, I spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community?” The words contained in that book, although written in 1967, provide a blueprint for today for how we as a people can advance and move forward towards our greater destiny.
Dr. King wrote in part, “Yet the average White person also has a responsibility. He has to rise up with indignation against his own municipal, state, and national governments to demand that the necessary reforms be instituted, which alone will protect him. If he reserves his resentment only for the Blacks, he will be the victim by allowing those who have the greatest culpability to evade responsibility.”
He bookends this thought by saying, “Blacks hold only one key to the double lock of peaceful change. The other is in the hands of the White community.”
Are you surprised that Dr. King believed as a people, Blacks cannot solve all problems alone?
My hope is we do not see this as a burden or unreasonable expectation. Instead, we should look at this as an opportunity to engage with our Caucasian counterparts in ways that interest their hearts, minds, and souls because they are people who have dreams and hopes for a better future like we do.
Unfortunately, many won’t sway because their hearts and minds have already hardened. But the superpower we all possess is our humanity, and if it is there, we can find common ground. Is this too straightforward?
It is not to suggest in any way that it is our responsibility as Black people to do the heavy lifting for our Caucasian counterparts so they “get it” to help them see how our destinies are linked. Far from it!
We as a people have done more than our share of that kind of heavy lifting already. Ibram X. Kendi deftly articulates in his book “How To Be An Antiracist” the difference between being non-racist and allyship.
Instead, our responsibility as Black people is to look at ourselves and the construct and understand our collective identities and the effects those constructs play in how we see ourselves today and in the future.
Black History Month, although recognized officially by Gerald Ford – our 38th President – in 1976, Black History Month found its origins in 1926. Carter G. Woodson, the son of a slave and the second Black individual to achieve a Ph.D. from Harvard University, created a group born from his association with the Omega Psi Phi fraternity called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
The fraternity created a “Negro History and Literature Week” that was celebrated initially during April. In 1926, ASALH moved and expanded the celebration to February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass’s birthdays.
While we have historically honored this tradition of recognizing February as Black History Month for the last 44 years, it is time – as Dr. Woodson took the initiative in his day – to strategically look at the celebration and expand it again.
In January 2021, ESPN announced this effort with the campaign titled “Black History Always.” This is a year-long initiative focusing on Black stories across all networks and platforms to recognize Black Americans’ immense contributions at the intersection of “sports, race, and culture.”
We know Black people’s contributions to humankind mandate the need for this truth –
“Black History Always.”
We must make it a reality and expand the concept of the celebration of Black History to something more extended than the obligatory shortest month of the calendar year.
There is no month of the year in this country’s existence since its inception when Black people failed to contribute in a material way to its framework; the United States is still considered the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
What a thought – that the country whose original sin of slavery still brings with it the title of greatest in the world’s history! Black people have starred in coincidentally or purposefully the most remarkable stories, with many more to be discovered.
Why Do We Need to Keep Fighting?
Blacks must expand the way they see themselves, not shrink to the confines of a calendar. But to bring the full vision of ourselves to the places where we live, work and play. We must continue the work of those who came before us, whether they be icons such as Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela. Or those of us lesser-known yet equally important to the advancement of our freedom, such as Howard Thurmon, Ella Baker, Dianne Nash.
We must continue to summon the strength of those before us to operate in places not intended for us. We carve out a spot by sheer force of will.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, in the laboratory creating a game-changing vaccine to halt Covid-19. Shaka King, Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Regina King; behind the camera to craft soul-stirring narratives, Stacy Abrams, who brought together the community to organize Black voters. Or Kamala Harris, sitting in the seat as Vice President of the United States.
Simply put, being the best of ourselves, we will compel the hearts of all to see that this mission is their mission too. We must permit ourselves to be the living embodiment of the promise we inherited as free people and lock arms with our counterparts and hear the voices of those who sang loud enough in the past to power us forward now.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commencement Address at Oberlin College, Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution, 1965.
featured image credit @thefoolies