As Black History Month comes to a close, I remain in awe of so many African American men and women who stood tall throughout the centuries, when it took an act of courage to just stand or speak or hold a steady gaze in the face of cruelty and exploitation.
That steady gaze has seen such harsh treatment and injustice over the years, that it’s a wonder the African American race has survived and thrived with the prodigious tenacity and joy to ever-widening vistas, that is now blossoming in the United States.
I’m so grateful for all the amazing men and women and children who had a part in bringing justice and freedom to this beautiful race. When I think of people like Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglas, Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes and others, I feel such veneration and respect.
I recently finished reading the seven autobiographies of Maya Angelou, who lived an extraordinary life. Of the many remarkable, courageous experiences she conveys, I was really touched by her stories of Malcolm X, whose name usually rings synonymous with violence and rabble-rousing. Maya knew him as a friend and co-operative in working to facilitate change through the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60′s.
Just before his life was suddenly ended, they were planning a nation-wide campaign to bring awareness to the masses. He had changed his ways from “freedom, no matter the cost, even if it necessitates violence” to a peaceful stance which glowed with humble persistence and a call for unity among all races. Maya and Malcolm mapped out community centers, churches and other public places around the country, to bring the message of equality for all people through collaboration, with a non-violent approach. Those speeches never got their chance to shine.
True greatness can’t really be quantified, but for someone with a propensity for aggression, who is faced with hatred and prejudice on a daily basis, to make a one-eighty, turning from a fiery vehemence to a call for change through peace and cooperation, has to rank up there with the noble ones.
There are countless others who have demonstrated valiant courage and heroism worthy of emulation, by not just the African American world, but by all of us who desire to see all injustices cease, all around the world.
Hats off to all of you who make a difference in this evolving world, small or big, every bit of it goes into the rising ratio of goodness on this beautiful planet!
These two poems (partially quoted here) reflect the hope, determination and power that can be claimed by all of us, especially those who, like the African American diaspora, have faced injustices but continue, undaunted:
A Brave and Startling Truth
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
–William Ernest Henley
thanks to the following for graphics: