Therese Taylor- Stinson

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Growing up in DC, I first learned of the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans through stories told by family members and friends about our relatives and about people they knew such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Pearl Bailey. I also learned of the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans because of the people in the community who were sometimes our neighbors, business owners, our doctors, and lawyers; our numbers runners and drug dealers. I learned about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans through the news and, living in DC, through riding through the riots in the streets, through walks through Resurrection City, through marches and protests, including the prominent March on Washington.

I learned of the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans by seeing the pictures from the past and watching my own family’s accomplishments and struggles to make a better life for themselves and for me. I learned much about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans through my aunt, my father’s older half sister, Mae Street Kidd, who was known to be the first Black legislator in the State of Kentucky, and who was responsible for Kentucky ratifying the Emancipation Proclamation in 1976, I believe.

I learned about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans through Mohammed Speaks and the Nation of Islam, through Malcolm X and Mohammad Ali, through Black sports and entertainment figures held up in the Black community, through Ebony and Jet magazines. I learned about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans through books like Black Boy and Manchild in the Promised Land, The Soul of Black Folks, and my mother’s love of Black writer James Baldwin and poet Langston Hughes.

I learned about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans in these ways before I was ever offered a class or a history book that told the accomplishments and struggles of Black folk. I learned through The Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Ron Dellums, Frances Welsing, and others. And I believe even today that is the best way to learn about ourselves—through the family, the community, the heroes and heroines of our culture, the writers, the singers , the artists, musicians, preachers, and poets, who create a documentary and a sound track of our life and legacy that cannot be revised or erased.

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The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a film by Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films, in assocation with Ark Media.