By Alexander Speid, Westside Gazette
Many successful scholars and people alike have come and gone in our history. From the births of new life, to the recent passing of Civil Rights Leader, and Congressman, John Lewis. Today, we as a people of African Descent, must be vigilant of ourselves, especially in cultivation of our history. There is so much that young Black People do not know, me included, with so many more historic events and details of our ancestry left unspoken.
But that seemed to shift after I had spoken with an author who believes in the youth of Black communities being properly educated on where we, as a race, came from, and where we can be headed as brothers and sisters. That author was Tyrone Ash.
Tyrone Ash was raised in Hollywood, Florida. His journey towards knowledge began in the 10th grade in the first integrated high school in Broward County. One day while in class, young Tyrone asked his American History teacher, “Why was it when Black People were discussed in this class, they were slaves?” Though he was sent to the principal for such a question, it was at that moment where his journey had truly begun.
Since then, Mr. Ash went on to educate himself on his Black history, while also applying his headstrong desire for equality. This went towards peaceful protests that he put into motion against the mistreatment of African descendants throughout his High School years.
Mr. Ash attended Southern Illinois University, where he worked in the Black Studies Library as a student employee for the Black Stuies Department. In those three years, he studied under famous scholars of African American history (included are Dr. Walter G. Robinson and Dr. Henry Wilson) As one would expect, Mr. Ash was also on the frontlines of a protest march in the City of Cairo, Illinois with other college students against racial injustices.
He graduated in 1973 with a Major in Government and a secondary degree in Black Studies. He returned to Hollywood, Florida, where he began his career in community building and youth empowerment. He was a member of the Fair Share and Economic Development Committee for Fort Lauderdale NAACP—ranking number one for five consecutive years.
Mr. Tyrone Ash’s life had been in the best interest of educating Black youths and people alike to their history. As a historian in his family, Mr. Ash sought out to write a book that chronicled his own family’s ancestry. At least, that was until his grand-daughter asked him a very important question.
“My three-year-old grand-daughter at the time was sitting on my lap.” Tyrone Ash said, “She asked “GP (short for GrandPa) Why you like that?” And the way she asked that question, shook me to the quake of my bones. When she asked that question, I realized if you do not know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”
Mr. Ash set out to continue his research in order to reevaluate his book. Not only would it chronicle his own family’s history, but the history of African life from beginning, up to the election of First Black President, Barack Obama.
“I wanted to tell the story of where we came from and used Obama’s election as the 360 point.” He explained. “I wanted to start from the first human in Africa, to the election of Obama. The spirit told me to write this, not as a profitable thing, but something for the Black community.”
It took 10 years of research and writing to be able to gather many stories and historic events into one novelization for the whole family to read. Though specifically geared towards a children’s story, his book contained historic events that should be shared with all ages; specifically, the Black youth who needed it the most.
The Book was titled “The Story GrandPa Told of American and World African Legends and Culture” and was finished in 2011.
It was announced on a well-care seminar to the African American Research Libraries across the country. It was the first time a coordinated event had brought these Libraries all together. Some even became more tech savvy in order to reach out to the Black youth. It was also announced on the same year that the UN declared The International Decade for People of African Descent. The proceeds went towards organizations that helped Black youths to be informed of their ancestry.
The book itself made note and intergenerational activities for the whole family to enjoy. It covers many African historic events that some may know, and others were denied in their school’s education beyond MLK day. Some stories include late congressman, and Black Activist, John Lewis and even John Carlos during the 1968 Mexico Olympics. It even tells the tale of Carter G. Woodson, founder of “Negro History Week” in 1926; which, with the help of his foundation, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, pushed for it be extended to a month and be renamed “Black History Month.”
An Interesting piece of history was that John Lewis was the youngest speaker on the March on Washington movement with Martin Luther King in 1963. Young Lewis told that his speech had to be toned down due to its extreme revolutionary tone. That stuck with me the most, because it showed me just how strong Black people of my age, felt about the injustice they received. Just as we do now in 2020.
“I’m hoping people know that it’s more than just a book.” Tyrone Ash explained, “It is a book where you have to put it in your hands, turn the page, and read, taking the youth back to basics. But there are references for poems, plays, and many other things that people can look back towards and research themselves. With over 500 individuals, hundreds of countries, and over 500 personalities in the book, it is meant to give the Black youth a lot of what they need to know. Including career opportunities that were run by us and created by us.”
Samuel Morrison, founder of the African American Research and Library, was one of the reviewers of the book. He described the book as though it talked more about his own family and life, as well as Ash’s.
A point that Mr. Ash wanted to stress with this book, was the theme of an African Proverb; “Each one, Teach one.”
An example of this was a project lead to teach Philippines and other islander’s children to speak English, but the children could not relate since the lessons used references of the United States and was out of their culture. A native of that land brought items that were found around the Children’s homes, into the classroom, and had the kids say what they were. Then he simply gave English names to them. The rest was history.
“That is why it’s called self-history; to relate to yourself through history.” Mr. Ash said.
As such, Tyrone Ash believed one of the linking connections that each successful individual person had to bring them towards their peak of success was knowledge—knowledge of their self-history, and knowledge of the ancestry. That was one of the missing traits in Black communities that Mr. Ash wanted more attention to be put into. It was the reason for Carter Woodson’s book ‘The Mis-Education of the Negro;’ to explain just how out of touch the Black community is with their own history. That was 1930. And even now, in 2020, we are still saying we do not know.
This is the point of the Tyrone Ash’s book. In the 1960s, Black People had their avenues of spreading Black knowledge through music (James Brown’s: ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ for example) the Black Panthers, and many other methods. But now, we have the George Floyd movement, the spread of police brutality cases, and access to the Internet to keep us well-informed. This is our generation’s ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ movement.
“All of us as a community need to understand that the reason, we’re brothers and sisters is because of the story that we all live every single day.” Mr. Ash said, “As such, I want everyone in the African American Community to learn about our history; especially during a time of us staying at home.”
Tyrone Ash has received great reviews for the book and praised for the its historic lessons that inform the youth on where they came from.
It could be questioned as to why Tyrone did not try to put such a book into the school system. He explains it through a story of one of his readers; A mother whose 7-year-old child came home crying on MLK day, because their teacher had told them that Martin Luther King was racist for not liking white people. Naturally, the mother spoke to the school and set the record straight that Martin Luther King was speaking for everyone, not just Black people, to unite and be together.
This was one of the reasons why Tyrone did not want the book to be published for the school system so soon, due to how the system could twist the stories’ motives on what it would be trying to teach. He rather the children read it themselves and find the information on their own.
Mr. Ash’s goal is to make his book more of an activity for individuals to know our story, rather than it be described as a movement. He wants to put forth an effort to get the activity to go nationwide in order to bring the community of Black people together in the understanding of how we got her as a people. Tyrone Ash has plans to continue publishing stories for younger children.
“Normal has not been good to us as a people.” Tyrone Ash stated. “We need to be more responsible to ourselves and what we do. And our youth are part of that and cannot be left out. They were taught in the 60s, and they need to be taught now about their history. Not just what they are taught in schools during Black History month. We must teach our children so they can find someone in their history to inspire them to achieve their dreams.”
When you purchase the book online, visit the website, thestorygrandpatoldof.com for $29.99. At least $10.95 of your purchase will go to Pass Story of Diaspora Forward Inc.—a 501c3 tax exempt organization that creates and provides activities for the youth and community for cultural enrichment. Opportunities will be provided for other 501c3 organizations. Non-profit organizations will be able to keep the $10.95 if they would also like to sell the books.
“The purchase of the story is an investment in mine and community.” Mr. Ash stated.