‘I am Black History’

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Pictured (l-r) are: Mark Wise (President of Woodlea Homeowners Association), Senator Sollie Norwood, Senator Gary Brumfield, Rep. Justis Gibbs, Justice Jim Kitchens, Senator Albert Butler, Rep. Gregory Holloway, and Atty. Robert L. Gibbs.

By Rep. Justis Gibbs

JA Guest Writer

If Black History could come to an open mic, what do you think it would say? Imagine with me for a moment, an outdoor stage darkened by the darkest night. But as we focus our eyes, the stars that bedeck the heavens cause a silver headed mic to glisten faintly, but brilliantly in the distance. And then we hear footsteps…. And suddenly those footsteps begin to boom with every stride across the darkened stage until they stop at the open mic. A throat clears, and a distinct and distinguished voice declares, “I am Black History”. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been attacked over and over again and I am still being attacked. I am Black History. I evoke a full range of human emotions: laughter, rage, sadness, love, fear, and inspiration. I am Black History. I cause constant thinking, connecting, and discovery. I am Black History. I should be told and shared: straight, no chaser; unvarnished and unembossed. I am Black History. Yet, I have been redacted, run the risk of eraser and I am being removed from libraries and classrooms, but I remain permanently etched in the hearts and minds of my people. I am Black History. 

I am unbelievable, yet, unfortunately, completely believable. I am Black History. I dare speak, even when legality grips me with its best and strongest “choke hold”. I am Black History. I have been threatened by generations of Jim, and Jane, and Jim 2.0, and most recently a lady by the name of Karen. I am Black History. I have been relegated to a few pages in whitewashed history books and offered limited celebration amounting to 28, and sometimes 29 days of a 365-day calendar. I am Black History. 

I have personally birthed churches, schools, colleges, and organizations in the face of segregation. I am Black History. I am endowed with music, dance, art, and literature. I am Black History. I have been buked. I have been scorned and I have been talked about sure as you have been born. I am Black History. 

I have been denied. I am Black History. I have been assailed. I am Black History. I produced Martin, Malcolm, Medgar and Barack. I am Black History. I harbored Rosa, Coretta, Betty, Myrlie, and Michelle. I am Black History. 

Like God, who authors me, where can you go and not find me? Or where can you flee from my presence? I am Black History. So, you can enslave me, chain me, import me, torture me, try to indoctrinate me, lynch me, burn me, ban me, censure me, segregate me, bomb me, shoot me, legislate me, threaten me, jail me, kill me and my children, BUT I AM BLACK HISTORY!

But being Black History; claiming Black History comes with great weight and big responsibility.

Being African American and encompassing Black History are two separate things; one is a racial identity while the other is a commitment to the study and understanding of who you are, and how you got where you are and what your obligations are to those who came before you. 

But what we are seeing in society is a never-ending attempt to hide and shield the truth of our tenacity and the model of our triumph. Society seeks to limit the full story, the entirety of the record because to add those facts to our written history would make our lineage incredibly resilient to the reader. 

Our society has found politically correct ways of banning material that offends. So, to be “BLACK HISTORY” we must demand the entirety of the record, we must pick up books authored by some of the most banned African American authors in this country and fill in the blanks that society has worked so hard to hide. In 2016, as I was a student at Howard University, I encountered one of these books that is now banned from public libraries. And this one book filled in the blanks, this one book answered some of the deepest questions I had about humanity, and race, and violence, and tension.

The book was titled “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, it chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. 

Dr. Kendi’s extensive research and this book of truth-telling proved that racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were intentionally created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched racist policies – fake stories originating from the 15th century were spread about Black people to explain why it was acceptable to enslave Black people, purposefully utilizing prejudice to achieve material gain, a practice known as strategic racism. “Stamped from the Beginning” discussed the invention of whiteness, and the idea that whiteness itself – regardless of country or culture of origin – is worthy of some greater reward than is deserved by people with darker skin. Dr. Kendi’s book helped me understand the complex creations and realities during time periods that were not often discussed in the classroom. It also helped me understand the complex struggles and obstacles that my people endured.

So when I say I AM BLACK HISTORY, I think about that unnamed person who walked with every stride up to that open mic. And who was vulnerable and truthful, but resilient and strong. When I say I am Black History, it is not because of my title or accomplishments, it is because I choose to embrace my history, and my legacy. It is because I choose to bring my ancestors and their stories and their pain and their triumphs along with me on my journey. I am Black History because NO VOTE, NO VOICE, NO CHOICE. 

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‘I am Black History’

By Jackson Advocate News Service
March 4, 2024