I know, you are probably thinking, what does a white woman know about Black History?
Well, not enough, as far as I’m concerned. I do, however, like to educate myself as much as possible about historical events in our nation, especially those events that showcased the strength, perseverance, and yes, even the pain of the ancestors of my friends and loved ones.
I haven’t experienced the agony of being ripped from my homeland, of being sold on an auction block, nor have I felt the crack of the whip onto my bare flesh.
I have not had to bear witness to hatred, racism, segregation, or lynchings.
I have not had to fight for equal rights under the law because my skin happens to be dark.
Yes, I’ve had my own hells that I’ve lived through, but I can’t imagine living with widespread racism and injustice.
I do, however, stand alongside those who have suffered, are suffering, or are conduits to social healing. I feel your pain, and I stand in knowing that the voices of the ancestors will keep speaking and inspiring.
Now, I’ve many beloved friends who are black, some are my dearest friends, yet I don’t really always see color. I can say I’m colorblind, but I’ll repeat something I said last year during black history month (paraphrasing): “I could say I’m colorblind, because I see beyond skin color, I see what’s in a person’s heart and mind; but I’m not. I have dreamed to have dark skin; I love how the light melts into the skin, creating beautiful golden tones. Yes, I see you. I see all of you. And I love who you are, inside and out.”
I’ll tell you of one of my recent experiences.
January 17, I was invited to attend a performance of, “We Shall Not Sleep – The Story of our Ancestors,” performed by Gary Giles. It was a mixed media presentation, a slide show with music and Mr. Giles’ accompanying narration.
In his presentation, he portrays three key figures from African American History: Frederick Douglass, William Still, and Martin King Luther, Jr. I was entranced as I watched him transition from one character to the next, channeling the ancestors who fought for freedom, justice, and equal rights. His impassioned prose combined with the hauntingly poignant historical photos and music had me feeling as if I were living the history myself.
After the performance, there was not a dry eye in the room. After a lengthy standing ovation, Mr. Giles finally signaled for us to stop. (Later, he confided that it was the longest standing ovation that he had received.)
At the conclusion of the performance, Mr. Giles talked about this generation and future generations passing the torch – keeping the voices of the ancestors alive. Never forgetting the pain nor the triumph of a dark part of our history, or the strides made toward freedom and equality.
I invite you to visit Mr. Giles‘ website and view the teaser video for “We Shall Not Sleep – The Voices of our Ancestors,” and please feel free to leave comments and share, share, share!
This event opened my eyes even more to the horrors and struggles that African Americans have faced over the centuries. It was difficult to see an entire people treated so cruelly. It’s heartbreaking. But I’ve gained a new perspective and a new respect for those who have stood tall in the midst of fear and pain, and for those who never gave up when it came to demanding freedom and equality.
Yes, Black History Month is only a month long, but I say we celebrate our brothers and sisters year-round.
Let us all carry the torch, shall we?