Saturday, February 21, 2015

Remember the Past: A Personal Reflection

Recently, I read an article that claimed that Alberta King (Dr. Martin Luther King's mother) was assassinated too. She was shot by a mentally unstable person while playing the organ at her church. While this information is incorrect (yes, she was murdered but not assassinated), the larger point of the article was that despite the author's parents purposely ensuring that he was well acquainted with Black Historical figures, by and large, the activists were men and the women were mostly artists--writers, poets, playwrights, singers, etc.

In working on this series of Remember the Past posts, I'm recalling all sorts of history lessons I was fortunate to receive throughout my youth. As I read that article, I realized that my lessons were not painted in that way so that the activists and fighters were mostly men and the women were in essence, the artsy supporting roles. From age 6 until 15 (with a few years absence), I was fortunate enough to participate in a play at my church wherein I was exposed to more than the typical "safe negroes" (Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and occasionally, for sciency-reasons George Washington Carver) that schools trot out during February. I was introduced to the likes of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Constance Motley Baker, Shirley Chisholm, and Barbara Jordan. (Each of these will have a spotlight soon.) In hindsight, it's quite possible that because the writer and director of the play was female that she either actively highlighted the contributions of fighter women or that these were merely her role models, and she felt it important that the play included these women.

Whatever the circumstance, I'm glad that my education on Black History did not end with the "safe negroes" I learned about in school. However, I've also come to realize that my lessons were indeed unique and not everyone received these lessons. I've come to understand that me being able to rattle off the accomplishments of Wells-Barnett and Constance Motley Baker is an anomaly. It's an anomaly that needs to no longer be an anomaly. For not only do women of color who fought for rights need to be recognized, but more Blacks in general need to be recognized for their places in history. Now, this isn't to minimize the contributions of people like Phyllis Wheatley, Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou and others, but it's to say that yes, their contributions mattered, but so do so many forgotten people, esp. the women warriors.

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