Dr. Martin Luther King's most memorable and recited speech is his "I Have A Dream" speech at Washington in 1963. Dr. King and his body of work is greater than this one speech. It seems that in history we start and stop there with Dr. King. Likewise, the same thing occurs with African-American history.
We start on February 1 and stop on the 28 or 29. We begin with slavery and stop at Civil Rights as if hundreds of years of African American history can be completely covered, discussed, and completed in 28 or 29 days. Like the history of the rest of the world, it should be shared throughout the year and include everyone of African descent, from periods before the first African touched American soil to the most recent individual who should be celebrated today.
Local Phoenix resident and native, Taj Loo, provided a great insight for this very subject. African-American history precedes that which is taught and studied through the American Educational System. She states that
"It's as though we had nothing to offer this nation except as supplicants begging for a seat at the table of America's bounty. We were a civilized people who had created cities, libraries, great buildings, and laws. We had great orators, architects, mathematicians, and great doctors. Other cultures came and learned from our people. Slavery and colonization came and interrupted this growth, and stunted and twisted it. We are so much more than the descendants of slaves. We are the descendants of scientists, astronomers, doctors, weavers, artists, and orators. Our children must understand this, know names, and know our warriors and founding fathers who fought for our liberty in very real ways."
During this month (and the rest of the year) it is important that we, as parents and our children's first teachers, teach them the truth about history. We must take the time to learn more than what is taught in the history books at our local schools. In a time when governments are threatening to remove pieces of history from our schools, we are the key to ensuring that they know the truth about their past, present, so that they can be greater in the future.
Taj, also an educational consultant in the valley, takes every opportunity to educate her children on their history. She shares the legacies of those besides Martin Luther King, Jr, and Rosa Parks. Some individuals recommended for study are:
- Shaka Zulu
- Queen Nzingha
- Julian Percy
- Charles Drew
- Toussaint L'Ouverture
- Phyllis Wheatley
- William Kamkwamba
The Phoenix Public Libraries, Amazon, and Scholastic Books are a few of the resources that can provide the information and tools to begin teaching our kids about the dream that Dr. King had and where this originated from. The dream did not begin with him sitting on his porch fantasizing. The dream began with the roots, the blood, and the legacy that flowed through his veins and the veins of every African-American child who awaits the gift of knowing who they are.