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If no one’s going to say it, I guess I’m going to have to be the one to say it.
It’s Black History Month in my country, America.
A time set aside to celebrate the contributions of Black Americans in the United States.
As a child, growing up in Memphis, TN, a racial hot-bed and the death place of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr, the weight of this time was never lost on me.
Every year just before February on Martin Luther King Jr. day the city would organize marches in downtown Memphis, where people would fill the streets with signs of protest, unity, and remembrance. The march would end at the church where King had given his last speech, and there a pastor would preach about the meaning of faith and endurance. The choir would sing uplifting hymns and the community would commune with one another; fellowship. It was a time to honor a great man, to remember his life and his work and what he done for not only the nation but for our small town of Memphis, TN. There was generally a great deal of sadness in the room, as many of the elders had been alive during King’s march and remember his assassination as if it were yesterday. I believe some of them carried around a great deal of guilt that their city of all cities was the one where King had died. I remember how solemn the room always felt. It always gave me a sense of purpose and my aunt would always tell me, “Don’t you ever stop marching, even when I’m not well enough to come with you, you keep marching.”
Every February, as kids we were always asked to research a notable black American and do a detailed report on how they contributed to the advancement of not only black culture but America itself. We would also have plays about freedom. We would sing the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice”. It was what we did.
It was always about heritage and never forgetting the lives that were lost in order to bring about progression. To always honor these freedom fighters. But to also give light to what work there was still to be done.
Today in America, we are still fighting for justice freedom, and equality for all, but I would be remised to speak only of the struggle of my people during such a turbulent time in America.
Our Muslim brothers and neighbors are being banned from their homes. How can anyone turn a blind eye to what is happening; when this nation was founded upon the right to practice religion freely! The pilgrims left England because they disagreed with the religious teachings of the Church of England and were members of a group called Separatists. This voyage to the land of America was about freedom to practice religion freely… and nobody seems to get the irony of it all.
If nothing else I just wanted to encourage everyone to be mindful of civil rights and what this month of February means to Black African-Americans like myself, but to also be mindful of what the term “Freedom for All” means, as we have come upon a very dangerous time in history.
In a time like now it takes the tolerance, respect, and understanding of us all to be the change that we would like to see in this world and we must never take our own liberties for granted. But we also have a responsibility to speak out against injustices and cruelties as hatred is also a spectator sport.
Words by Keturah Brown