If it’s told well, history can be more compelling than anything Hollywood could ever conjure.
We celebrate Black History Month because our country’s common story is filled with hidden chapters of uncommon courage, brilliance, grace and examples of an unshakable faith in the land of our birth.
History is what happens when a person steps forward into the unknown when no one else is willing do it.
It recounts the moment when someone does what must be done, or says what must be said, and exposes what must be exposed.
History tells us how we got here, and who led the way, very often at personal risk.
Martin Luther King Jr. simply wanted to be a pastor and a scholar. But destiny wouldn’t let him be.
One reason so many Americans are disgusted with Washington today is due to the abject moral cowardice that seeps out and covers everything with a slick sheen of insincerity.
Phony, fetishized patriotism and the selective hypocrisy that comes with it only serve to deepen our divides and threaten our institutions, without which there would be no America.
Americans know they are more likely to see Sasquatch backstroking in the Potomac than to hear someone offer the barefaced, unvarnished truth at their own peril.
Weaned on bravery
Americans are bereft because we were weaned on bravery; on stories of people who crossed the seven seas to make America their home. We were taught about the risks taken by American colonists against the mightiest empire on Earth, and about the brilliance of a president who declared that “if slavery isn’t wrong, nothing is wrong,” and how it cost him his life.
Some of you saw with your own eyes how housemaids, yard men, clergymen and college students insisted that America live up to its promises, and withstood hatred that stalked them like roaring lion.
With hearts beating like jackhammers as dogs and deputies closed in, they could only hope that the nation’s better angels would feel compelled to take up their cause.
Those stories that make up American history are how we define ourselves. When we compare them to what we see today — the treason weasels, the wimps, and those intent on burning it all down — it’s small wonder we want to pronounce ourselves dead.
We wonder and wait for someone to have the courage to step forward and tell the truth, consequences be damned.
But what we too often fail to do is consider that it does not always fall to someone else to do what must be done. More often than not, history is made by the least among us; people who may not feel equipped, who may even be downright afraid, but who understand that someone must take up the mantle.
When freedom wasn’t coming fast enough, Harriet Tubman — powerless, black and a woman — took it upon herself to break people’s chains.
Black History Month matters because we need to be reminded of who we are as a country, and who we can be. It pulses in those moments when heart-stopping fear is pushed aside to make more room for courage.
It is the ongoing saga of moving ahead, always moving ahead, and understanding that speaking truth to power almost always results in criticism and contempt, but also vindication.
History also remembers the cowardly, the avaricious and the silent. It cloaks them with eternal ignominy, and does not let subsequent generations forget those who squandered their opportunity to serve, but gave in to the siren call of personal aggrandizement.
But even this too, is history. It’s a warning to us that no matter how much we may try to hold on, power is temporary. It’s all to be handed off to those waiting in the wings, so that they, too, can write their stories.
Black History Month asks us not to forget those forbears who suffered and succeeded against great odds. It also calls us to stand today and take up our part in making the grand experiment we call America, a grand success.