“Only pay attention and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your grandchildren [impressing these things on their mind and penetrating their heart with these truths]— Deuteronomy 4:9
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
Dr. Carter G. Woodson
“When you open up history books, you will find gaping holes of missing and incomplete Black History as you turn the pages. Storytelling fills in those gaps with research and wisdom from the sages. We must tell our stories.” Rev. Sheila P Spencer
There is sacredness in passing on our stories. Scripture refers to the importance of ensuring that truth is passed on to each generation. It is a privilege and responsibility. We are called to pass on what is precious, our spiritual legacy and the legacy of our ancestors.
The art of storytelling is an important part of African American Culture.
Known as the “Father of Black History,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) understood how important it was to make sure our story was told. Recognizing the lack of information on the accomplishments of Blacks in 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
It was NEVER Dr. Woodson’s intent to limit Black History to only a week. His legacy by founding ASALH was to ensure that African American history is shared every day of the year. This was to remind us about the importance of sharing our stories and our narrative.
It makes me grateful for the narratives passed on to me by my family. We Tell Our Stories. There are children who go to sleep with bedtime stories or lullabies. My Mama’s nightly mantra was to hold both of my hands, breathe deeply and look into my eyes.
Sheila, look at our hands the shades of chocolate, caramel, mahogany and brown. They serve as reminders of our heritage and where black excellence is found.
Let me see your hands.
So I didn’t receive the bedtime story, or lullaby, it was more of an evening blessing. It was wrapped up in love, tied up in research and in the form of a history lesson.
Hands the shades of chocolate, caramel, mahogany and brown. They serve as reminders that in the midst of hands our wisdom and strength is found.
Let me see your hands.
These hands will open up books and find gaping holes of missing and inaccurate Black history, as you flip through the pages. Take these same hands to seek out research, record our Black excellence and sit down at the feet of the elders and sages.
Soak up all their wisdom and pay attention to everything that is said. Elders transitioning without telling their stories is like a library being destroyed full of books never read. Make sure you answer the questions that your elders ask of you. Strength comes from wisdom that is passed on through multiple generations, too.
Take your hands that count the days within February — 28 days, and every four years, 29. Take that one hand to multiply by 12 to make it one year, because the vastness of the Black excellence can never be confined.
The hands of ancestors who were strong enough to create and innovate. The descendants of royalty and queens, who built nations, worked in factories and fields, yet they were gentle enough to both soothe bruised hearts and have skilled surgeon hands to heal.
Listen to the stories of hands that created world changing inventions and art that surrounds us. History that continues to impact the world around us.
When you’re wringing your hands because you’re sick and tired, remember Fannie Lou Hamer and be inspired. Reach around and listen to the wisdom of Dorothy Height. Watch Shirley Chisholm walking down political halls and answering her call.
Ruby Dee, and Nikki Giovanni reminding us of our royalty. We are surrounded by the wisdom of our ancestors. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters who are reminding us that we are brave and brilliant.
We are surrounded by the names of ancestors whose names were not mentioned in places of history. Black excellence is past, present and future and continues eternally. When our story is transmitted, the world expands. Black excellence impacts American history and everyone should learn and understand.
Black excellence is legacy and light — roads that have been created so that you are able to walk down them paved. Reminding you of the sacredness and beauty of the image in which your legacy was made.
Black excellence that has happened in the past and all the lessons that taught us how our history is also made in the here and now.
So when books open, may there be less gaping holes of missing or incomplete history as you turn the pages. Remember that one day you will be one of the teachers, the carriers, the elders and the sages.
The opportunity to share and bless is still in your hand. Hands the shade of caramel, chocolate, amaretto and brown. It is in the midst of this we are reminded where our Black excellence is found.
We Must Tell Our Stories,
Rev Sheila P Spencer