Embracing My Roots
Blog, Alicia Marie
Mar 08, 2010
This year I decided to take Black History Month seriously. I'm enrolled in a program at the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco where the teacher, Ms. Estell, has made it a point to educate us about Black history since I've known her.
When she asked us, "what is your responsibility for Black History Month?" I answered, "To educate others about my culture." However, due to the fact I knew very little about my culture, I had to listen intently to what she was teaching us.
She began with what I like to call a prep talk. Every history book that I've had at school always started talking about the African culture at the time of Slavery. Every year that was always an arkward time for me. Many students would try to lighten the mood by saying, "Oh I hate white people." Nevertheless, it still hurt me to think my ansters were, "invented" for such horrible treatment. Ms. Estell, who became very passionate at this point said, "YOU WERE NOT INVENTED DURING SLAVERY!" She might not have known, but it really stuck a cord with me. "You were KINGS and QUEENS!"
She explained to us that Africa is where life began. Although Europeans tried to say it came from Europe, even Asia, they had to admit that life orginiated in Africa. She went on to describe how Africa was home to the first Univerisities. How we took pride in our land and how we were not violent people. When she did get to Slavery, she clarified how as Africans, since we weren't violent people, we accepted the Europeans onto the land. We tried to treat them as our brothers, but they betrayed us. They tried to dehumanize us and sold us into slavery.
I most likey would have never gotten this information if I wouldn't have come to Omega Boys Club. I would have been scared to take an American-American Studies class. So the thought in my head was, which is what I was taught at Omega, "The more you know, the more you owe."
A few days later, I never thought I would have the opprounity to share what I've learned to my peers. Normally, I sit in my corner with my headphones blasting doing my work. Since I had a headache I was just trying to finish my little bit of editing I had to do and go home. I heard my co-workers, Sean and Ja’Quan, doing various Vlogs in the room next door. All of a sudden I over heard them saying that no one celebrates Black History Month. I don’t know what came over me, but I got up and before they started the Vlog, I interrupted and told them I celebrated it.
After being invited to participate in the Vlog with them I noticed they used the "N" word a lot. It just didn’t sit right with me that we were talking about our history, but they seemed to keep using a word that was used to dehumanize us. After bringing it to their attention during the Vlog, the conversation continued once the cameras stopped rolling. The look on Sean’s face when the word was being broke down to him was priceless. It was like his eyes were opened and all the work that the Civil Rights Leaders were trying to do to help our generation was coming through. At the end of the conversation, we all made a pact. For one month, we were not going to use the "N" word in the office. If we do, we have to put money in the pot. First offence, whatever change you have. After that it's a dollar per usage. Within a hour span, together they had used it over 13 times! I’m proud because they stuck to the pact and put money in when they used it. I can’t save the world, but I can start small and hopefully make two people conscience of the word, and of our history.
I feel like my goal for Black History Month was reached. The Europeans back then wanted us to think that we were unintellegent, ignorenent, and unhuman. If we as African-Americans don't know about our culture, we are just going to fall into the traps set for us. We are not these violent people that they protray us to be. We are not just the drug dealing, bad grammer, always down for a fight people they want other races to believe we are. No, we need to get rid of this self-hate we have for ourselves, and educate ourselves about our history BEFORE slavery. That way more eyes can light up like Sean's did. That way we as a culture can rise and act like the Kings and Queens we are.
-- Alicia Marie1 of 1