After the 2-month period of steadily mounting hype which usually begins around Halloween of each year and extends through New Year’s Day, there quickly follows the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday, Black History month and special activities and programs related with each, all culminating for us at The Roanoke Tribune, with our annual April anniversary issue. However to our usual 6-month stretch (and I do mean s-t-r-e-t-c-h) is added this year, a number of historic, local, state and national anniversaries and celebrations and I’m finding myself getting caught up in the whirlwind, despite all intentions of remaining aloof.
In latter years I have vowed to accept no more than one engagement per year, feeling more comfortable with my access to the pen than to the podium. To date this year, however, I have already spoken to a most receptive men’s organization, been extensively interviewed for an upcoming special TV documentary and still have a couple of “big” ones to go.
With the sudden craze for more knowledge of Black History, especially on the part of non-African Americans, it seems unconscionable to refuse offering whatever information possible from my 60+ years of experience with the Black Press while working on newspapers in New York City, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, as well as The Roanoke Tribune, and on White newspapers in Vinton and West Virginia.
Of particular concern, however, are recent analogous references to African-Americans and “illegal immigrants” in current efforts by many to integrate the latter into our American society. Nothing could be father from similarity except possibly the psychological rejection of both. African-Americans never forced their way into a well established land of opportunity! Our forefathers and ancestors were kidnapped, captured, forced onto slave ships and brought in chains to this virgin nation against their will. They were then sold as personal property and treated like other animals used to develop this primitive territory for hundreds of years before it became illegal to do so. Upon arrival here families were separated, sold at auction and integrated genetically (also mostly against their will) with other nationalities who came to this new nation of their own free will–and continue to do so. Therefore it is neither easy nor advisable to “get over slavery” as one legislator recently challenges us to do.
I would suggest, however, that in remembering our unique history, African-Americans might instead of being obsessed with searching for some proud roots in a single pure ethnic heritage overwhich racial and territorial wars continue to be fought, we might strive instead to identify the analogy of our spiritual roots which unite us across all man-made divides.
From the Baha’i Writings we read: “The achievement of this organic and spiritual unity of the whole body of nations should be regarded as signalizing, through its advent, the coming of age of the entire human race, the emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship. . .”
Should the kings, rulers and leaders of the earth “ . .arise and resolve to dedicate themselves to whatever will promote the highest interests of the whole of humanity, the reign of justice will assuredly be established amongst the children of men, and the effulgence of its light will envelop the whole earth.”
The Baha’i Writings also specifically address America’s destiny and the unique role of people of African descent in this maturation process of the human race.