Why, you might ask, have I chosen to hold on to memories of the not too distant evils of slavery? Allow me to explain. Having been taught that if you don’t know where you came from, then you don’t know where you are going and history is certain to repeat itself.
Abolitionists such as Thomas Garrett, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Tubman to name a few, sacrificed their personal comforts, suffered indignities, imprisonments, and ridicule I am simply humbled at what they went through for all of us to have the freedoms that we often take for granted, When a documented family member, Stonemason John, who was captured and brought to this unknown land, and killed by hatred when his house burned down with him still in it, it makes me sad but humbled.
Since 1954, we have gradually over time become a spoiled and ignorant culture in America by not knowing our history. Whenever I reenact Harriet Tubman, audiences are always reminded of the indignities that our ancestors suffered at the hand of their captors. It pleases me to inform them that Kings, Queens, artisans, merchants, the cream of the crop, were removed from the Mother Land to satisfy the economic greed of white foreigners. I can only imagine that the physical beatings, mental tortures and indignities suffered made them more determined to succeed against the odds in a strange and foreign land. Not only did they survive, they thrived becoming victors for future generations to be proud of. Therefore, I am extremely grateful to them for what they endured, for all their accomplishments in order for me to be where I am today, for who I am. I don’t want to disgrace the memory of our ancestors and their accomplishments.
The remembrance of slavery helps me to remember that modern day slavery in America appears in different forms (drugs, physical abuse, gangs, prejudice, being uneducated and illiterate. Having chosen not to become a ‘modern day’ slave by shooting poison in my veins, snorting poison up my nostrils, and by not studying and pursuing educational opportunities our ancestors had to fight for has been a personal choice.
There aren’t any grudges toward the past or its active participants. I cannot hold this generation of Whites responsible for the actions of their ancestors. Now, what I can do is hold them responsible for how ‘I’ am treated today. As much as some don’t want to admit it, RACISM STILL DOES EXIST. Active participants of today’s racism are simply pawns of their own ignorance, their own fears. They have chosen to remain stuck in the abyss of ignorance. I look toward the future with hope for a better tomorrow, with all of us being a part of history and making our world a much better one in which to live. Idealistic? Perhaps, but I will continue to keep hope alive and continue to aspire to the fabulous dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. had.
This is an edited version of an essay originally written in November 2006 in response to a student’s query as to why I chose to remember slavery. I thought it to be somewhat apropos with the election of President-Elect Barack Obama who so eloquently spoke of our nation coming together, not as Blue or Red states, but as the United States of America!