Triumph Unmasked: Why We Celebrate Black History? A tribute to our past, present and future. Here’s to the winner in all of us by Peggy Butler
The history of a noble race, running roughshod over bondage, obstacles and time eternal. Fearless, proud and infinitely hopeful, that is the essence of our heritage. In honoring Black America we celebrate the rebirth of the nation’s most maligned ethnic group.
We celebrate the present by expounding on our achievements and reliving great moments from the past. We celebrate our ancestors who toiled in the midday sun, under the sweltering heat of oppression. Exhausted, their hands covered with abrasions from the cotton’s prickly thorns, they refused to buckle under the indignation, creating courage of the highest magnitude.
We celebrate the legacy of Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Dubois, crying out against injustice. We celebrate the NAACP, National Urban League and Southern Christian Leadership Conference in their crusade to remove the insufferable stench of racism gone awry.
We celebrate the strength of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Ida Wells-Barnett, women of unrelenting persistence, rebelling against the savagery of hate and inhumanity.
We celebrate the uprisings of Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey in their ill-fated attempt at freedom. So strong were these men in their quest for freedom, they preferred death to enslavement. We celebrate the Civil, Political and Equal rights so long denied and withheld. We celebrate our triumphs, disasters and heritage.
We celebrate the political activism of Jesse Jackson, Fannie Lou Hamer and the charismatic Adam Clayton Powell, eloquent strategists demanding the granting of voting rights to every adult, young and old.
We celebrate the soldiers on the battlefield. From the rebel retreat of Fort Wagner during the Civil War to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unsung heroes fighting and dying to keep America safe for democracy.
We celebrate the literary genius of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and Maya Angelou, urging America to redeem its pledge of equal rights for all via the written word.
We celebrate the Revolutionists; Malcolm X, Angela Davis and the Black Panthers, passionately urging Blacks to abandon the “wait and see” attitude and rebel against the White Establishment.”
We celebrate the contributions of Dr. Charles Drew, blood plasma founder and Garrett Morgan, creator of the automatic traffic lights; whose inventions helped revolutionize the health and transportation industry.
We celebrate the Nobel Peace Prizes of Ralph J. Bunche and Martin Luther King; two amicable men dedicated to world peace.
We celebrate the athletic prowess of Jesse Owens, racing across the finish line at the 1936 Olympics; Jackie Robinson, breaking baseball’s color barrier. And the wizardry of Michael Jordan, showing the world why he was named “the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century.” Similarly, we celebrate the brilliance of Venus and Serena Williams, taking tennis to new heights, and the beauty of Tiger Woods’ golf stroke; sturdy, on target, an exhibition of immense talent.
Lastly, we celebrate the diversity of our hair; curly, natural, permed, straight, waved and weaved and the beige, red, brown and blackness of our skin.
That is why we celebrate. To tell our history in our own words, as only African-Americans can do. In observing Black History Month, it is good to focus on the actions and accomplishments of dignitaries past and present. However, attention should also focus on lesser known heroes and heroines. We know that were it not for Dr. King, opportunities for African-Americans would be virtually impossible. Similarly, without Harriet Tubman, slaves seeking refuge would not have found solace via the Underground Railroad.
But what about those pioneers at the local and state level? Those anonymous men and women who paved the way, so that future generations could enjoy the amenities entitled to all people? Their contributions should not be confined to musty, photo albums and faded newspaper clippings. They too were instrumental in establishing the democracy of our modern history, and deserve to be enshrined in the scripted walls of the immortals. In retrospect, all African-Americans have made impressionable contributions big and small, to the dazzling archives that personify Black History.