In recognition of Black History Month, traditionally celebrated in February, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the jewels I keep with me that allows me to admire and appreciate parts of my heritage.
For many years, particularly when I was younger and learning about many famous pioneers taught in school, I used to wonder about what significant historical contributions my ancestors had made. And yes, I heard (and read) about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Fredrick Douglas, Dr. Drew and a number of other admirable individuals, but I was looking for something that would transcend any doubt that I ought to be very indebted to the brown skin I'm in.
Now, it didn't all come to me at once. I had to piece many dated resources together and really think about the fragments I appraised, before the picture came together. Once it did, I needed to survey no more.
It was that journey to America, and the natural substance of my people who survived that voyage. Nothing is more pronounced in my remembrance of my cultural heritage than the gems I've taken from their constitution.
So, I revel in the eating collard greens, primarily enchanted by a story I read about how, or what lead to this leafy delicious plant introducing itself to black sharecroppers.
Music and dancing is a large part of my rhythm; you know, the 'storytelling-writing' rhythm I credit parts of my heritage for passing down to me.
I've been touched by this rhythm in many, many others too; two sources straightaway coming to mind. For some reason I'm thinking of Patricia Neely-Dorsey's poetry book, Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia. Where the Southern man gets his stroll is the poem humoring my mood.
I'm also reminded of this African dance group who performed at the Smithsonian that awed me. The group performed this tribal dance where if you were watching as carelessly as I was, you'd swear it looked mimicable. I tried it, and almost didn't get to stand up straight afterwards. The program also included an African ballet performance; a routine I didn't dare try to mimic. In fact, when the floor later opened up for freestyle dancing, I wasn't the only one who shied away from the dance floor.
I also long ago stopped being bothered about being corrected on ax'ing for stuff. I'm honored to have this word still among my vocabulary, now appreciating where it originated. In fact, I try to perfect on the pronunciation, grateful there's still such a mannerism.
Which brings me to this do-it-yourself I got going on. I realize many people, of any culture short on nickels and dimes, resort to doing things themselves. In my case however, I know just where this gene matriculated. I know of people in my background who let nothing go to waste. Heck, I just looked left a sec ago and came up with another idea. I'm thinking there's a pretty good chance I can turn a few of them clear plastic laundry garment covers in my closet into a fairly voguish raincoat!
And oh, one of my latest, now highly favored quotes: "I would rather be ignored than patronized..." – Condoleezza Rice
What, however, is most inspirational about my heritage, is truly and deeply appreciating people who are a part of me. This is what makes it an easy appreciation to read and learn about other cultures, and to 'recognize' and 'respect' the many similarities.... -the pain, the triumphs, the struggles, and the humanness and contributions we individually and collectively symbolize.
I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves.
I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time being ashamed. - Ralph Ellison