While we are celebrating our nation’s 241st birthday with our families in our traditional ways, let us not forget the principles that our founding fathers adopted when they grasped freedom from the tyranny of the greatest power on earth in 1776. Now, during our present time, our democracy is being challenged from within itself. We must hold fast to those principles and to the bravery they exhibited all those years ago.
Twenty years ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to be in Washington, D.C. during the time of the Million Man March. My being in that place at that time was not intentional as it was for a business trip and not for the March. At that time, I thought it was a coincidence but now I believe it was a part of my life’s journey to be there in that moment because it became a validating experience to a future aspect for my life.
In the days immediately following the 1995 Million Man March, on Oct. 21, 1995, I shared my experience and feelings on the computer bulletin board named Prodigy in the Black Experience topic section. Prodigy was a precursor to the Internet and all of the social media platforms we enjoy today. The message subject was “To My Brothers” and the topic was the “Million Man March.” I realize now that the post I wrote on Prodigy was actually my first blog post. Even though that post was limited to only the Prodigy users, I received many positive responses from men who had attended the march telling me how moved they were by my words and their intent to share the message to other men in their communities.
In the time since the first Million Man March, an entire generation of young brothers have reached adulthood and another generation has been born. I want to share again my thoughts and feelings of witnessing one of those incredible moments of the African-American experience.
Here is the original post from 10/21/1995
TO MY BROTHERS OF THE MILLION MAN MARCH
I’m from Houston and due to my work I was in the DC area Oct. 14 -20, 1995. This business trip was planned in January, 1995, long before I knew the date of the Million Man March. So, when I heard about the March and the date, I was ecstatic. I promised my sister and girlfriends that I would give them a first-hand account of the atmosphere in DC. We were mindful that it was your day and did not have a problem with that doctrine. It was time for you to bond and unite…..to open your hearts and really share with one another. We, sisters, have always had each other. Since from the times when the slave masters sold our children, there has been sisterhood. Now, it was time for a rejuvenation of your brotherhood.
I decided to talk to every brother I encountered from the plane ride to the evening before the March. I met my brothers from Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, LA, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Gary, Harlem, Brooklyn, Paris, London, Tennessee, Detroit, Florida, New Orleans, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Seattle. I met you on the plane, on the Metro (subway), in hotel lobbies, restaurants, at the rally, and on the Mall the day before the March. I told you my name and asked yours. I asked you one question, “Why did you come to the March?”
Every one of you opened your hearts to me. Your answer was atonement, unity and brotherhood. You told me it was bigger than the controversy surrounding Minister Farrahkan and other leaders. You told me it was about God, you, and unity. You told me you wanted to make history and show the world the “realness” of the African-American man. You even said to me, “For you my sister. I’m here for you to ask your forgiveness for my treatment of you.” You extended an invitation for my participation in the March and begged me not to feel excluded. I assured you it was okay but declined because I felt it was your day. These were the things I heard from you, my brothers, not the media and I thank God for that experience.
So, I sat on the Mall the day before the March and watched you, eavesdropping on your conversations, chuckling at your excitement and animation………..I felt much joy. There was love, peace, harmony, enthusiasm, understanding, and truth amongst you. You were beautiful, beautiful, my brothers. There were other unknown sisters watching and we joined together in our smiles as we watched. We whispered about your majesty……….how there is no other man on the planet like you. You were a wonderful garden of powerful, warm, brown-hued flowers. We saw you as you saw yourselves – with renewed vision – and we said how we loved you. Sister to Brother. One brother in a group nearby turned and saw us. He rushed over to apologize for an unsavory word spoken. We had not heard it but the brother was concerned about offending us. This is the respect you must nurture always for your sisters, my brothers.
There were perhaps 100,000 of you on the Mall that day. My thoughts compared you to thousands of beautiful lamps………beautiful lamps that had been covered with the dark dust of your experiences with racism in America. But, now, through your communion, you were wiping off that dust from your brother. Each one of you did it for another so that your light grew brighter and brighter. I thought of my brothers still enroute to DC from the four corners of our country. I knew upon their arrival you would wipe away their dust, too. I knew your lights would stun the world on Oct. 16, 1995 and through God’s blessing it did. One million plus lights, united, cannot be ignored.
Thank you, my brothers. Thank you for obeying God’s call. Keep close to your heart that obedience is greater than sacrifice. Keep close to your heart that only God can change the hearts and minds of men and women. Your hearts are free, now. I am proud of you. Remember your pledges, honor your sisters, honor your families, and God will heal our communities.
Today is the 239th year since the founding fathers boldly “declared” into existence my country that I love so dearly. We were a fledgling group of colonies that banned together to battle the greatest empire of that day and now we stand as the greatest empire of this day. The journey from that day to this one has been joyful and painful. When we stand together and change the world we are joyful. When we separate and are divided on an “-ism” there is pain. The recent upheavals in our American society this past year alone is a glaring testimony to that fact.
In recent days, we all watched in horror in the aftermath of the deadly shooting of the nine victims in the historic Emanuel, A.M.E church in Charleston, S. C. where the shooter admitted he wanted to start a “race” war. He worshipped with the victims. He prayed with the victims. He shot the victims because of their race. Yet, what he intended to incite turned into just the opposite. We, the people, rose up together as one against this heinous crime. The Confederate flag, a symbol of the shooter and long associated with racial hatred, was removed from the state capitol of Alabama by the Governor in the heart of Dixie and major retailers will no longer sell the flags. I believe many hearts were changed by this painful tragedy.
Our country is only as great as its citizens and the actions they employ because of their beliefs. Because of recent actions, I believe the majority of us still believe in the words of our founding fathers when they wrote, “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” I believe that the majority of us still believe that we, the people, must always seek and must always strive to form a more perfect union with one another. It is the American way.
We have lots to celebrate. We stood on the brink of non-existence 239 years ago because the founding fathers were divided on the issue of slavery and the equality of African-Americans. Yet, they found a way to unite and forge a democracy that would improve to allow us in this present day to have an African-American president – President Barack Obama. Some of the modern world’s greatest inventions were created in our backyard. An American was the first to walk on the moon. Our military is the greatest on earth. They have always stepped up, heroically, to defend our values and those of our allies abroad. Yes, we have lots to celebrate. So, let’s get to it!
Happy 4th of July – Independence Day – to all my fellow Americans!
I love y’all! (As we say down here in Texas).
Believe it or not, one of my girlfriends and I made going to vote a girlfriend gathering. We both like to vote during the early voting period, so we would decide on a date and take a long lunch break from the office to vote and share lunch together. Since we are both female and African-American, voting is important to us because we realize it took two heroic movements (Women’s Rights and Civil Rights) to give us that right.
We enjoy seeing all of the people out voting especially during the early voting period because it is an indicator of possible attendance during the general election day. However, on one of our past voting gatherings we endured an experience that was a test to our patience and really had a negative impact on me.
On this particular day, there was a long line for early voting. Every voting day was a long line because it was during the 2008 Presidential election and then Senator Barack Obama was the Democratic candidate. We knew the waiting period would be long so we stood patiently chatting. We noticed an elderly African-American woman, easily in her late 70’s or early 80’s, standing in the line ahead of us. My friend was called in with a group before me to vote and left me in the line. I was standing near the security desk so I started chatting with the young African-American female security guard. I noticed another African-American woman, easily in her 50’s, standing near the security desk but not in the voting line.
The young security guard commented to me that she would be glad when the general election was over because she had been working extended hours during the early voting period. Suddenly, the other woman commented that she would be glad when the election was over, too. She went on to say that she wanted no part of this “mess” and the only reason she was there was because her mother insisted on coming and could not drive. I realized that the elderly woman we noticed previously was her mother.
Anger rose up in me and I was speechless – which is unusual for me! I know I gave that woman a look of disgust before I turned to the young security guard to reply. I told her just to have a little more patience with the voters because so many people had struggled, suffered and died for us just to have the right to be there. I told her to think of the journey of her ancestors and with that comment I turned to give that ignorant woman one last look of contempt before I stepped forward in the line.
It is in my nature to reason with those who may suffer from a lack of knowledge but there was nothing to redeem with this woman. Her elderly mother was determined that she was going to cast her vote for the soon-to-be first African-American President. She had the tenacity to badger her ignorant and unwilling daughter to bring her to vote. Yet, the daughter stood 3 feet from the voting line and refused to vote. I often wonder if I could have said something to encourage her to get in that voting line.
I know there are many of our citizens in an apathetic state about our government and choose not to vote. It may not be you but I know that most of us know at least one person in this state. I want to challenge you to encourage them to vote. Remind them of the birth and history of our country. Remind them of the struggles of some citizens just to attain the right to vote. Let us strive to replace apathy with civic duty in our communities.
I hope all that read this post are active voters. If not, please reconsider.
What do you feel about the voting process?
How do you feel about your right to vote?
You know it occurred to me as I prepared for Labor Day 2014 that I had minimal knowledge about the holiday that I have celebrated every year with family and friends. I had some general knowledge of why we, as a nation, celebrate it but did not know much about the origins of the holiday. So, I decided this Labor Holiday weekend to do some research and share with others who may not have full knowledge.
Labor Day in the U.S is basically the holiday that celebrates the achievements of the American worker and their contributions to our country. It is celebrated yearly on the first Monday in September. Oregon was the first state to celebrate it back in 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894 thirty other states were already celebrating it. Also, eighty countries worldwide celebrate Labour Day (that is how they spell it!) each year but in those countries it is celebrated on May 1.
After the national adoption, the early celebrations in local cities and towns included parades, festivals, and speeches by community leaders. Also, the holiday marked the end of the summer and a return to school for children. Now, in more recent times, the retail community has added their flavor to the holiday by offering sales on their merchandise to the citizens that are enjoying leisure time and may want to shop.
The ingenuity of the American worker and inventor changed the world with the inventions by persons such as Orville and Wilbur Wright, Eli Whitney, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Goodyear, Granville T. Woods, Elijah McCoy (the real McCoy), Lewis Latimer, Jan Ernst Matzeliger, Garrett Morgan, and Otis Boykin – just to name a few. We all have reason to celebrate the achievements of these workers and many more like them who have contributed much to the American way of life.