I love Black History Month. Although if I had my way, there would be no need for a separate month to celebrate our heritage and contributions to America.
If it were left up to me, and thousands of other African Americans, our history and contributions would have been incorporated into history books from the very beginning — and not with just a paragraph or two — as was the case in my American history book when I was in school.
While we can’t do anything about what might have been, we can start from where we are today, and teach our children the true story of how we got to the shores of America, and what we have done to help the country grow.
The story of the history of blacks in America hasn’t always been a pretty one. After slavery, came the Jim Crow years, which lasted through my own childhood.
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Then, came the fight for equal opportunity, and voting rights, and the right to simply drink from a water fountain that didn’t say “Colored.”
As the first African-American woman to have a byline in a major, white newspaper in the south, I have lived through much of the discrimination. I am happy that I, and many others, survived those eras. Many of our friends and family members died just so I would have the freedom to become the reporter I dreamed of becoming — and be able to write this column you are reading now.
I think about that whenever I hear our Negro National Anthem (Lift Every Voice and Sing), especially this stanza and chorus:
“Stony the road we trod ... Bitter the chastening rod ... Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
And the chorus: “We have come over a way that with tears have been watered, We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last — Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast ...”
Last Monday, I was guest speaker at the opening of the Black History Month Celebration at the Spirit of Christ School, located near Aventura in an area that used to be known as Ojus. I was invited by Dr. Mary Hylor, who went to great lengths to help her students understand the meaning of this month’s celebration of black history.
I was impressed with the skit the youngsters presented, depicting some of the great African-Americans such as Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Mary Bethune, and Dr. Maya Angelou.
I was equally impressed when Hylor told the class that their homework would be to define the song Lift Every Voice and Sing.
I told the youngsters that when I was a child, the song was sung as a part of our devotion (I’m dating myself) in nearly every black school in the country. I didn’t know it then, but singing it over and over, every day, was a way of telling and remembering our story, from slavery to the present. And although the song was written more than 100 years ago by James Weldon Johnson, the story is just as relevant to African Americans today as it was a century ago.
Sadly though, so many black children don’t seem to want to know about our history. They don’t seem to want to know that our contributions to America didn’t just start with a black man becoming president. They don’t want to learn the beautiful and soulful songs that slaves used to communicate with each other.
Perhaps it’s too painful to want to know about that part of our history. I understand. It is painful for me, too. But it is necessary for all children to know our story and to be proud of how far we have come.
This month, let us continue to lift our voices and sing. Let us sing about freedom and let us sing the old slave songs that sent a signal to other slaves when one among them was stealing away to the Underground Railroad and freedom.
And lets sing about the great men and women who came out of slavery and Jim Crow, and forged a way for those of us who were coming after them.
Let’s celebrate black history this and every month by telling someone our story.
Church Women United meeting
Women of all faiths are invited to the meeting of Church Women United to begin at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, 1301 NW 71st St. The women will present a Black History Month program and invite the community to attend. Lunch will follow the program.
Tu B’Shvat sedar
Rabbi Manuel Armon and Cantor Irving Resnick will officiate at a Tu B’Shvat sedar immediately following the Shabbat morning services on Saturday at Temple Beth Tov Ahavat Shalom, 6438 SW Eighth St. in West Miami.
During the service, the Haggadah, which is composed of prayers, recitations and songs, will be presented. The celebration will include the symbolic blending of white and red wines, and the serving of fruits with pits and shells, in celebration of “The Birthday of the Trees,” according to a temple news release.
The community is invited and there is no admission fee. However, donations will be accepted. Call 305-261-9821 or 305-205-3846 for more information.
‘Torah Topics and Tunes’
The Cuban Hebrew Congregation — Temple Beth Shmuel at 1700 Michigan Ave. in Miami Beach, will present a program entitled: “Torah Topics and Tunes” to examine the weekly Torah portion and gain a deeper musical understanding of the Siddur. The class will start at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, and will continue at the same time Feb. 12, 19 and 26.
The presentation will be taught by Cantor Stephen Texon, and it is free. A light lunch will be served following each class. Persons interested in joining the class, or becoming a sponsor, should contact the synagogue at 305-534-7213 or send an email email@example.com.
Muslim Organizations dinner
The Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations invites the community to its fifth annual community appreciation dinner to be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 7) at the Bank United Center, University of Miami in Coral Gables.
The dinner will honor the “Bridge-builders of the Year: former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, the Rev. Priscilla Felisky Whitehead and Eugene K. Pettis, Esq.
Anchorwoman Irika Sargent of CBS 4, will be the mistress of ceremony. For reservations call, Shabbir Motorwala at 305-283-2261; Khalid Mirza at 305-904-0074, or Mohammad Shikir at 305-812-4824.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.