March 01, 2005

Remembering the pain of the past to reap the glory of the future

On the heels of Black History Month each year, I'm reminded of one particular day of radio broadcasting ten years ago.

Not long after I came to Atlanta as morning drive host of the late, lamented WIGO radio, I did a program about history and artifacts and remembering. The program came about after a caller groused about the notion of preserving slave quarters on an old cotton plantation in southern Georgia.

Ramshackled structures, which looked to be ready to fall down were in danger of doing just that on this particular property. Some people, both black and white, were interested in maintaining those structures, and restoring some, if not all of them, and rightly so, in my estimation.

We, as a people, need to remember the pain and horror of what our ancestors went through. We need to know about that dark portion of American history, and the injustices that some perpetrated on others as America went through it's growing pains.

In any event, a number of callers were upset with my position (as if that event, in and of itself was anything new). They felt that there was no need to maintain such a painful reminder of our collective past; on the contrary - in their eyes, each and every vestige of slave and Jim Crow-days should be eradicated. In their eyes, the very existence of such an ediface would be enough to maintain their ongoing victimhood status at the hands of whites in America.

I strongly disagreed.

I felt (and feel), that just as we celebrate the positives in black history; the black heroes who persevered the setbacks that life handed them across time, we should also know and learn and remember the darkness of the path taken. But it should be remembered within it's proper context. It should be noted that we as a people have come a long way from there to here.

As opposed to using that type of display as a crutch, it should be viewed as a victory - "See how far we have come?"

We don't live life as the footrests of whites in America; we don't live life as collective victims. Our forefathers certainly would be proud of how far we have come.

Some would quickly say that we have "far to go." But in reality, do we?

Opportunity exists for all of us. However, we have a responsibility to take advantage of that opportunity. We have a responsibility to use our God-given talents and gifts to move forward, and not to allow others around us to prevent us from doing just that.

There are those would have you believe that America "owes" us more than that; that America "owes" us jobs, or money, or reparations, or some other nebulous thing.

What America "owes" black America is what she owes to any American: opportunity, liberty, and the fundamental freedoms that are granted by God. I just wish that more blacks in America would reach out and sieze those rights, as opposed to allowing the "Soul Patrol" to tell them that whites in America are playing keep-away with their rights.

Posted by mhking at March 1, 2005 03:02 PM

Michael, what a powerful message. One that I concur with 100%. Keep it up... the "Soul Patrol" of Jackson, Sharpton etc., will keep Black America in bondage as long as possible, not for the benefit of any Black American other than themselves, i.e., power, prestige and a platform.

Posted by: GMRoper at March 1, 2005 03:43 PM

I don't understand why you give "the Soul Patrol" so much power.

Do you believe Blacks sit back waiting until a "Soul Patrol" member says something before they form an opinion?

Seriously. Conservatives give them more weight than your typical Black person.

But I guess the boggie man is needed.

Posted by: DarkStar at March 1, 2005 08:41 PM

you're right they are given too much credit, as if they truly speak for all blacks. what i think cons dont like is how the media always sees them as black leaders and they are tired of their views not being acknowledged. that is where i lost rev. jesse lee peterson he seems to me tobe just anti jackson and sharpton and it diminishes their message

Posted by: shari at March 2, 2005 01:13 AM

I agree with you completely that these slave quarters should be preserved. To me this is no different than figting to preserve the many many Civil War Battlefields across the country. It's a part of history, and as such should be preserved so our children can see what our nation went through, good and bad.

Posted by: Denise at March 4, 2005 01:55 AM
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