Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 11:19
Although I was unable to attend the second in- auguration of the 44th president of the United States, Barack H. Obama, my son and two of my grandsons were able to witness that powerful event in Washington, D.C. that took place on Jan. 21, 2013.
Their stories of what they experienced, their visit to Howard University, their interaction with the various communities that make up our national fabric, and their watching close up the ceremony of America’s first black president was exciting and sobering.
I reflected on the fact that 50 years ago my father took my brother and me to the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington. That’s when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech.
I remember I wore some blue seersucker pants and a red banlon shirt. I remember other bits and elements of that day so very clearly. It was a beautiful summer day, warm and pleasant, but not hot or humid, one of the half-dozen or so best days of that long-ago summer.
I was 15 years old and excited to see and meet people from all over the country. Mahalia Jackson sang. Other famous Americans spoke. And although the atmosphere was warm and embracing that day in Washington D.C., it was a very different America. But that event changed my life and the lives of my family and so many others.
Not many people remember how things were back then; the prejudice, the classism, the hatred, the bitterness, the racial divide. So, that’s why it’s important that we continue to celebrate African American History month in February.
And it is also appropriate that the 2013 theme for Black History Month be At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.
This year’s theme (like themes for previous years) was chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASNLH), the organization whose founder was the Harvard-trained historian, Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
‘ACCOMPLISHMENTS’r. Woodson conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925, and the celebration was expanded to a month in 1976 during the nation’s bicentennial. At that time, President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
And we need to remember. How soon we forget important, life-changing, defining moments.
There are people in the Miami-Dade area old enough to remember the 1926 unnamed hurricane that almost wiped Miami off the map.
There is a remnant of survivors who still remember vividly the 1992 hurricane called “Andrew” that ushered in new thinking about how we build new homes and buildings. And so we have to be reminded constantly of the events, attitudes and actions that shaped our ways of life, altered for the better our perspectives on living, and deepened our respect for all of God’s creation.
PASS STORIES ALONG
The early inhabitants of the Holy Land were instructed in Deuteronomy to pass on the stories of their beginnings and struggles to successive generations. This was so that the children and offspring might value God as the source of all things; the earth as the creation of God; the Bible as the truth of God; all people as the image of God; family as the basic unit of God’s creation; and the house of worship as the called of God.
Lord, help us keep the story going so that mutual respect might exist for all of your creation.
We thank you for the contributions of all peoples who make up our great nation, and especially during this month, the labor, love, legacy, and loyalty of African-American citizens.
Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net