Friday, February 27, 2009

Living History

Sometimes God has to remind me how blessed I am.

It's easy to get distracted by the day-to-day craziness of life and become convinced that life is conspiring against you. Quite often, I find myself wallowing in my whining about how heavy my burden feels. Sure, I pay lip service to the concept that I'm blessed and that billions of people suffer much more than me daily, but in my heart of hearts I'm still whining.

I like when God opens my eyes.

Often it's so unexpected it reinforces my belief in miracles. This time I was attending a function that I expected to be boring, and my expectations were being met fully. In the midst of wondering what I was going to have for lunch, I got some inspiration.

It happened as I listened to folks talk about black history as a living, breathing organism, and I started to feel something. As these folks discussed their childhoods and the old ethos of their communities, I began to feel a connection to those ancestors who had trod dusty roads before me. It was only a stirring, but I stopped worrying about lunch and started listening to people talk about life.

My good feeling could have ended there, with me slightly inspired and still mired in my mundane concerns, but God didn't want that. He wanted to remind exactly how far we as a people have truly come.

To do that, he introduced me to an old woman, who was history. When I say that, what I mean is that she seemed like a typical old black lady, but when I talked to her about her life, I got a glimpse of how heroes come to life and how worlds are changed. There was nothing exceptional about this woman's appearance. She had rheumy eyes, and a hearing aid. She moved her mouth in that peculiar way that old people have, and she had the shuffling gait that all of us will likely develop if we live long enough.

But, when she spoke, she spoke in clear tones. She punctuated her sentences with little pokes of her finger into my chest and arms. This old lady had something to say, and she wanted to make sure I knew it.

She talked to me of eating in the back of gas stations and sharing old nasty faucets with her kids because she wasn't allowed inside. She spoke of desegrating churches because she wasn't going to allow anyone to force her to serve a Jim Crow God. This woman had organized her community and she was confident in her ability to make things happen.

She was secure in the history she had created.

There are so many people like this in our world. Black, white, Asian and Latino, they live among us, appearing to be just average citizens. But, when we listen to their stories, some of them have jewels of experience that can make our lives so much richer. They can give us an honest recollection of the things we only learn about through books.

I regret not taking better advantage of my opportunities to learn about history through the elders in my family before they passed on into death or senility. Unfortunately, when you're young you often have little time to reflect because you're so convinceed that what you're doing today is important. It's only later, when age and experience give you some context, that you understand how much you owe to the generations that came before you, and how much you can learn from them.

I wrote this post because that experience made a difference to me and it was a fitting way for me to end Black History Month.

With living history.



Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Good stuff, Big Man.

Over at daddyBstrong, to celebrate Black History Month, I did a series of posts on Black leaders and great events throughout the month of February, ending with additional info on Carter G. Woodson, the "Father of Black History." I hope you and your readers get the opportunity to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this was the direction of the post, but bear with me...

I was making the argument to my friend last night that the civil rights struggle (which started from the moment Africans arrived on this shore and realized that they weren't getting fair treatment based on the color of their skin) was not really the big names that we all know, but individuals who didn't have a national platform and who may have the first set of blacks to try and register to vote in their county or the individual family who told white landowners "No" when they tried to buy their land.

Its interesting because my father grew up in rural south central Louisiana just north of Lafayette, and he didn't move to Chicago until 1965--and he doesn't remember one blessed Jim Crow event, and his older sisters don't talk about it. So, I can only imagine what stories older people really have.

Although, you know what REALLY intrigues me, when I meet old, OLD white people down south who are ALWAYS just so pleasant and nice to me. Yes, this 6'2" black guy with stud earrings and 360s, I've NEVER had a bad experience with older white people.

I've just always wanted to have a frank conversation with them and ask just how were they able to make the sociological change from pre-Modern civil rights movement until now.

Big Man said...


I've been checking out what you've been doing and I hope others do the same.


I used to wonder about the same thing with older white folks. Then I realized that they probably didn't have to change their mindsets too much. After all, most white folks were not in the streets spitting on black folks and such. The racism that was practiced by much of the population was less violent. It's perfectly possible to be nice to black folks in person and practice discrimination against them in other ways. Plus, nowadays, there is not much benefit to being openly racist, so folks don't do it.

Raving Black Lunatic