While many are tired of hearing about it, sick of participating in discussions about it, and fed up with watching movies about it – it is important, and cannot be exempt from the black history conversation.
Is 200 years really that long ago? Ruth Bonner, the 99-year-old daughter of a man born a slave in Mississippi, rang the bell to officially open the National Museum of African American History and Culture last year. President Obama spoke at the ceremony prior to the bell ringing, referring to Bonner’s father, Elijah Odom. “As a young boy, he ran, though, to his freedom. He lived through Reconstruction and he lived through Jim Crow. But he went on to farm, and graduate from medical school, and gave life to the beautiful family that we see today.”
The bell, which the Obamas rang with Bonner and several members of her family, was transported from the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, the the city to which slaves were first brought from Africa in 1617.
I work in Alexandria, Virginia. Alexandria provides a free trolley service that runs along King Street, located in the historic Old Town. I am reminded every single time I ride the trolley by a monotonous and repetitive voice over, which plays loudly and clearly through the speakers in my ears. The voice is educating its otherwise clueless passengers, by teaching a short history lesson on the transatlantic slave trade, which took place right in Alexandria.
My church, Alfred Street Baptist Church, is not too far from King Street. If it were not for determined, freed slaves, who sought permission to build this church over 200 years ago, many Old Town Alexandria residents and tourists today, mostly Caucasian, would not know the significance, much less appreciate the sacredness of such a building. .
Slavery is the root cause of the many challenges we as a country face today. Systemic oppression, mass incarceration, police brutality, and even black-on-black crime. An entire people were snatched from the shores of Africa, stripped of their sanity, identity, heritage, and most importantly, their rights, and made property on this very soil. That cannot easily be erased in 100, 200, or even 300 years. After whipping, it was lynching, after lynching it was prison, and now it has become immediate death. But, we’re still here.
Slavery is the strength from where we come. I still wonder, after watching parts of the “old” Roots, Django, the more recent version of Roots, and even Selma, how African Americans made it this far. From King to Obama, from Tubman to Davis, from Ali to Jordan, black people continue to achieve the impossible, moving mountains and breaking barriers.
In 2017, 200 years post-Civil War, these ‘United’ States have elected a leader who has signed an executive order banning people from entering our nation – some who are from the same shores from which we were taken.
A couple of days ago, South African chairperson of the African Union commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced that she is not here for this level of discrimination.
“The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries,” Dlamini-Zuma said, according to EBONY.com.
Although the incompetent president’s order did not name the countries that would be affected, reporters confirmed that individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia would be blocked from entering the country. Libya, Somalia and Sudan are all members of the African Union. According to The Huffington Post, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database estimates that more than 300,000 Africans were forcibly taken to the U.S. over the 360 years of the trade’s operation.
How can a nation so easily forget its roots?
Slavery remains an essential part of any conversation concerning American history, especially African American history. And because slavery is so significant, black history is indeed the foundation of America.
Happy Black History Month