A tribute to our past, present and future. Here’s to the winner
in all of us by Peggy Butler
The history of a noble race, running roughshod over bondage, obstacles
and time eternal. Fearless, proud and infinitely hopeful, that is the
essence of our heritage. In honoring Black America we celebrate the
rebirth of the nation’s most maligned ethnic group.
We celebrate the present by expounding on our achievements and reliving
great moments from the past. We celebrate our ancestors who toiled in
the midday sun, under the sweltering heat of oppression. Exhausted,
their hands covered with abrasions from the cotton’s prickly thorns, they
refused to buckle under the indignation, creating courage of the
We celebrate the legacy of Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglass and
W.E.B. Dubois, crying out against injustice. We celebrate the NAACP,
National Urban League and Southern Christian Leadership Conference in their
crusade to remove the insufferable stench of racism gone awry.
We celebrate the strength of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Ida
Wells-Barnett, women of unrelenting persistence, rebelling against the
savagery of hate and inhumanity.
We celebrate the uprisings of Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey in their
ill-fated attempt at freedom. So strong were these men in their quest for
freedom, they preferred death to enslavement. We celebrate the Civil,
Political and Equal rights so long denied and withheld. We celebrate our
triumphs, disasters and heritage.
We celebrate the political activism of Jesse Jackson, Fannie Lou Hamer
and the charismatic Adam Clayton Powell, eloquent strategists demanding
the granting of voting rights to every adult, young and old.
We celebrate the soldiers on the battlefield. From the rebel retreat
of Fort Wagner during the Civil War to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Unsung heroes fighting and dying to keep America safe for democracy.
We celebrate the literary genius of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes,
Gwendolyn Brooks and Maya Angelou, urging America to redeem its pledge
of equal rights for all via the written word.
We celebrate the Revolutionists; Malcolm X, Angela Davis and the Black
Panthers, passionately urging Blacks to abandon the “wait and see”
attitude and rebel against the White Establishment.”
We celebrate the contributions of Dr. Charles Drew, blood plasma
founder and Garrett Morgan, creator of the automatic traffic lights; whose
inventions helped revolutionize the health and transportation industry.
We celebrate the Nobel Peace Prizes of Ralph J. Bunche and Martin
Luther King; two amicable men dedicated to world peace.
We celebrate the athletic prowess of Jesse Owens, racing across the
finish line at the 1936 Olympics; Jackie Robinson, breaking baseball’s
color barrier. And the wizardry of Michael Jordan, showing the world why
he was named “the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century.” Similarly,
we celebrate the brilliance of Venus and Serena Williams, taking tennis
to new heights, and the beauty of Tiger Woods’ golf stroke; sturdy, on
target, an exhibition of immense talent.
Lastly, we celebrate the diversity of our hair; curly, natural,
permed, straight, waved and weaved and the beige, red, brown and blackness of
That is why we celebrate. To tell our history in our own words, as only
African-Americans can do. In observing Black History Month, it is good
to focus on the actions and accomplishments of dignitaries past and
present. However, attention should also focus on lesser known heroes and
heroines. We know that were it not for Dr. King, opportunities for
African-Americans would be virtually impossible. Similarly, without Harriet
Tubman, slaves seeking refuge would not have found solace via the
But what about those pioneers at the local and state level? Those
anonymous men and women who paved the way, so that future generations could
enjoy the amenities entitled to all people? Their contributions should
not be confined to musty, photo albums and faded newspaper clippings.
They too were instrumental in establishing the democracy of our modern
history, and deserve to be enshrined in the scripted walls of the
immortals. In retrospect, all African-Americans have made impressionable
contributions big and small, to the dazzling archives that personify Black