Black History is Everyone’s History
Feb 22, 2019
By The Rev. Marcia Parkinson-Harrison, co-chair of the MNYS Anti-Racism Committee
"If we as a people realized the greatness from which we came we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves"—Marcus Garvey
Despite the fact that imperialist colonizers of the world have chosen to cut-and-paste world history in a way that marginalizes and minimizes the contributions of the original peoples of the planet, to the contrary, it has been now verified that the world’s earliest people hail from Africa:
…skulls [that] were found at the Jebel Irhoud archeological sight in Morocco are believed to be the oldest human remains. The first skull was found by a minor who gave it to an engineer as a souvenir. The engineer eventually turned the skull over to the University of Rabat [in Morocco] and an official expedition to the sight took place in 1961.
Since then several more skulls and other bones have been found spread across the continent around 330,000 to 300,000 years ago. (oldest.org)
These people communicated and recorded their stories in many ways that still have yet to be revealed within the scholarly community. In short, to speak of black history is essentially to recall the history of the people of this planet.
Somehow in the course of the single largest holocaust in the history of the world (over 350 million Africans were enslaved), black people became "less than" in order for our terrorist, kidnapping, genocidal, racist, rapists to justify their inhumane treatment of black people. Regardless of this so-called justification, Africans were sought out and shipped in less than deplorable circumstances to become the only unwilling immigrants to this "great experiment" called a "democratic republic". After Africans built this country and made the "Robber Barons" the ultra-rich of today's social registry, Africans became undesirable, useless, and unqualified degenerates. After nursing their babies, washing their clothes planting and reaping their harvests, cooking their food, designing and building their cities and roads (that people still drive on to this day) being given to the sons and daughters, masters and mistresses as sex toys, Africans became a frightening bane of the very existence of their captors. As time progressed, African Americans have continued to be situated at the bottom of the social ladder, being denied credit for the work of nation-building that they rightfully deserve.
Despite the hate and denial of the sacred worth of African Americans, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, African Americans have been able to hear a different Gospel from the Gospel fed to them by slave owners and society to keep African Americans in their places. This different Gospel is one of the crucified, suffering Christ. No one knows why a whole people was subjugated and subjected to slavery. Perhaps the entrenched toward African Americans comes from a place of deep need, and only Christ can fix the void.
There is often the question as to why the Church should celebrate Black History. Since Black History and its vast contributions to American society are generally important, it would stand to reason that it is also important in our specific Lutheran settings. Where would we be without the historic as well as contemporary contributions of the African in the diaspora? Some of the greatest theologians that defined what it means to be Christian in the early Councils of the Christian Church were black: Augustine being one of the more significant ones whose theology continues to define the articulation of our faith to this day. This is black history. When King Herod issued a decree that all the male children of the Jewish people be executed where did Mary and Joseph hide? For it is written "Out of Africa I have called my Son." When he appeared in the temple at the age of 12 the scribes and the Pharisees were astounded at his precocious wisdom of all things spiritual. It is undisputed that he received his early education in Africa… this lowly son of a vagrant carpenter and an unwed mother. "What kind of man is this?" When he read from the Torah and exclaimed "on this day the prophecy has been fulfilled" The leaders of the Judaic tradition were incensed. Yet he walked through the crowd of people who did not touch him. Today we would call that "black power"!
Black history did not begin when the first slave ship landed in Jamestown Virginia in 1501—by then Africans had built empires, created art, literature, and designed and built structures that stand to this day. Africans had an elaborate irrigation system and a means to live and thrive in sustainable communities. Africans were also astronomers, scientists, and homemakers, and everyone had a sense of collective responsibility. We knew well the philosophy of that great African writer Alexandre Dumas "All for one, one for all".
We as a church, red, yellow, black, and white, should not have to debate our need to celebrate the various cultures of the One People on this One Planet. We are all in the family of God called together through one faith and one baptism, based on our gratitude for the salvation made possible once and for all by the sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus. As the beneficiaries of God we all have a right to lay claim to the promises secured by the blood of Jesus for our sinfulness, due to the gift of free will to all of us created in his or her image. That image has taken on many forms—from white men to black women—the image that we see is the image that we be, our Almighty Lord and Savior is bigger than you and me and the deep blue sea. If God can be He then why can't God be She? After all we are all in the family of the Almighty Creator.
Black history is everyone’s history. It started with a week and now it' has been given its place in the shortest month of the year. It is said that we must learn from history, lest we are doomed to repeat it.
We cannot change the cycle until we recognize the cycle.