“Deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome someday…”
Each time I hear the words of hope and optimism in that great song from the most turbulent of times, my mind is instantly immersed in images of a day when the nation in which we live was basking in division and ignorance; from separate drinking fountains and colored only dining, to segregated busses and even the basic right to vote.
The bible admonishes us as well, that, “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” Although we face similar challenges today, there was never a time in the history of this great nation when that division was more blatant than in those crucial times when America, the greatest nation on earth- was divided against itself.
The Worst of Times
This was an era where 17-year-old Emmett Till was beaten beyond recognition for nothing more than flirting with a White woman; when the bombing of an Alabama church early on a Sunday morning claimed the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley- four innocent little Black girls in Sunday school; and where Rosa Parks, a middle-aged Black woman, weary from a day’s work, was arrested for simply refusing to give up her bus seat to a White man.
Yet through ignorance, apathy, and anguish, these were bittersweet days as well. For through these trials by fire came legendary struggles, triumphant testimonies, and the audacity of the human spirit.
An age-old statement profoundly proclaims that ‘the only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ Forging ahead in the boldness of that resolve, unbeknownst to them or not, a few unique men and women saw that which many before them had witnessed as well. Nonetheless, these individuals simply said, with action and not with words, “thus far and no further.”
The Winds of Change
Standing up against incredible odds, mountains of Injustice, walls of animosity, blind hatred, and roadblocks of oppression, many were jailed, attacked, humiliated, beaten, lynched, bombed, and murdered- all in full recognition of a cause much greater than themselves. When we stand each year and consider not only the value of Black History, but Blacks in history- two questions remain: have we learned anything; and have we overcome?
Have we brought to fruition the dreams and hopes of those who labored, fought, and died before us? Have the unselfish actions of our predecessors, and the blood, sweat and tears of those on whose very backs we were able to rise as a people been for naught and all but forgotten? In other words, have the generations since paid homage to the laborers and the labors?
Beyond any doubt, great strides have been accomplished, mountains have indeed been moved and many milestones have been achieved. From at long last attaining the most basic of rights- the ability to ride in any seat on the bus, to witnessing history, as the first Black President was sworn into office. The significance of these acts I dare not overlook.
The focus of this query is not directed there, but moreover within everyone’s ability to look past his or her own prosperity and to the well-being of another. This then also begs the question: am I my brother’s keeper?
What’s at Stake?
What changes have we made to provide evidence that we truly have learned the value of celebrating Black History?
Accord to the Tuskegee Institute, over 1,400 more black Americans murdered other blacks in the space of two years than were lynched from 1882 to 1968. In addition, a 2012 FBI report showed that White males were 38% of the population and committed 4,582 murders. Meanwhile, in that same year, Black males were just 6.6% of
the population, but committed a staggering 5,531 murders! Are we paying attention?
Can we honestly say we have overcome, when we overwhelmingly support with our vote and our words, our oppressors in their oppression? Can we yet say we have overcome, when over a thousand Black Babies die every day, by and large due to our conscious contributions? We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the social and economic ills that plague Black people, when we too shoulder the burden for that status.
If there be any Ills in our society then we must unify in search of a cure. We can no longer sit idly by, without taking some accountability for where we stand today, as well as where we go from here. This then, I say in closing; I propose this question not solely to the collective, but to the individual as well- have we overcome? For if we have not overcome collectively- than truly, we have not overcome.