My people were lost sheep. Their shepherds led them astray. They abandoned them in the mountains where they wandered aimless through the hills. They lost track of home, couldn’t remember where they came from. Everyone who met them took advantage of them. Their enemies had no qualms: ‘Fair game,’ they said. ‘They walked out on God. They abandoned the True Pasture, the hope of their parents.’” —Jeremiah 50:6 The Message (MSG) by Eugene H. Peterson
Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
I am constantly reminded of how important it is for us to teach our history to our children each time I’m afforded the opportunity to speak at different schools. This is compounded during Black History Month. It doesn’t matter the grade level or the audience, the need to educate and reeducate our children and ourselves to the legacy of our tempered and emotional past is one of necessity for our survival.
I am pushed, battered and terrified each time I leave the presence of students whose faces appear to be those of individuals who have just smelled the putrid stench of a rotting corpse when they learn for the first time of the horrors of the Middle Passage.
I do understand that our history is just not limited to the advent of slavery to these United States of America. I’m well aware of the exquisite regality of our noble prowess from the lineage of ancestral Kings and Queens to the fertile treasures of our distant Home Land. The intellectual knowledge of the scholars who taught at the University of Timbuktu rivaled and stood head and shoulders above Aristotle, Plato and Socrates and yes this DNA of brilliancy is found in our cerebral cortex. Now you tell me that our students can’t pass standardize testing! Hell, we created testing.
I marvel at the way Jewish children attend their Jewish schools, wearing their Jewish uniforms and learning their Jewish History EVERYDAY that they attend school. I believe that their history is at the forefront of their education and the fact that they are reminded of their painful past has been the fuel that is propelling them to remain ahead of the rest of us. “Never forget is their moto!”
While we squirm, bow and shuffle and turn our noses up at the mention of Slavery, our children are sliding head first into the pool of “mixed up identity”. They don’t know who the heck they are, let alone whose they are.
If we don’t know where we come from and what we have been through, we are more than likely to go there again, figuratively and literally.
Sure, there are those that say, “Slavery was in the past and teaching them about that is not going to make them rich; it’s only going to confuse them.” “That was then and this is now.” “Why do we have to stay in the past? People are not like that now.” My response to that is, “Go into our schools and look into the faces of our children and ask them to tell you where we come from.” Stand on the corner and watch our children as they enter into the gates of our educational system. I don’t want to paint our children or educational system with a broad brush, but our children who do not know their history are LOST like ships without rudders, gliding aimlessly in the sea of no return. Like that old proverbial tree, unable to stand without roots!
“Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland? If I ever forget you, Jerusalem, let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves. Let my tongue swell and turn black if I fail to remember you; if I fail, Oh dear Jerusalem, to honor you as my greatest. Psalm 137:4-6 The Message (MSG)
Your will to battle for achievement came from knowing where you did not want to be; the insurmountable oppressions and courage from which your heritage sprang; I would like to believe that because you were taught of this driving force in the kidnapped African you were bound to never ever be less. Always strive to overcome but never forget where you come from and while achieving, educate others to our greatness because of it.