To be very honest, I don’t remember learning much about the accomplishments of African Americans in school, only Martin Luther King, Jr. I always had a love for family and the elderly, but they never talked much about our history. The lesson that sparked the fire in my life was the series “Roots.” I was very young, but wanted to know more. Once I was old enough to live on my own, I started decorating my house with items and books about our history. The Shrine of the Black Madonna bookstore in Houston offered a wealth of books that I had never seen before and an annual exhibit that started me on a quest for more knowledge. Magazines like “Legacy” offered unique stories that I could share with my children as well.
I must say, the place where I have learned the most is PBS. Over the years, series like “Africans in America” and so many more series about our culture helped to shape who I am today and my children. I made it my business to purchase the series and share it with young people in my life and work. PBS also introduced me to Dr. Louis Gates and inspired me to take up researching my family history. I have learned so much about myself and ancestors. Over time, I have become more proud of who I am and take pride in knowing that I am the keeper of our family’s history and supporting documentation. I believe the best way to pass along our rich history is to continue to document in books and film, encourage all to document what they have now because it will be valuable in the future, and to keep including young people in the dialog.
My journey and knowledge impacted my daughters and as a result, they are committed to attending HBCUs. My oldest daughter (21 yrs) is at Howard University and she credits the books and videos for shaping her views. My youngest daughter (14 yrs) is confident and has a lot of pride about being African American. We must find a way to make our history relevant to young people and use it to build up their confidence in a positive way. We must fight to make sure that our stories are the cornerstone of the African American church, social organizations, and HBCUs. Lastly, we must demand that the education system include more stories of success and incorporate examples of our success in all areas of study, whether it is business, science, the arts, or history. Thanks for your work and all that you and PBS do to preserve our history and tell the stories of African American people.