Black folk and other folk forget these words in Lift Every Voice and Sing, known by some as the Black National Anthem; “We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”

The history of Native Americans and of Black Americans, if known and understood honestly, offers an understanding of why we are where we are in the USA in 2017.

Regardless of our race, religion or no religion, politics, or where we are as conservatives, moderates, liberals, progressives or radicals, the history of Native Americans and Black Americans, has made those last words of the Pledge of Allegiance, “With Liberty and Justice for All” a lie! Yet we have sought to say with Maya Angelou, “AND STILL (WE) RISE”.

Thoughts from an 83 year old, southern born and raised, African American man:

1. Yesterday I bought my Dorothy Height, Black Heritage stamp. As a sequel to the Women’s March, I suggest women and men of all races, purchase and USE the Dorothy Height and other Black Heritage stamps! Don’t be afraid to let your your PO know you are learning from and embracing Black History Month.

2. Borrow from your Library or buy, the 3 books of MARCH that tell the story of John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement. Regardless of the results of the Sessions Attorney General nomination, the scars of slavery and segregation still disfigure the nation. The nation must cease ignoring them. The wounds that caused the scars have not yet been healed. The chaos of these moments, tells us that. Black History could be a corrective to the missteps of the current administration, if we live it.

3. “We have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests”. The embrace or the rejection of President Donald Trump has made him the centerpiece of our emotions and actions. He is not the first President the nation has elected who is viewed as being racially biased. Remember liberal, Woodrow Wilson? Trump’s “birther” tirade was clear evidence of his insensitivity to or disregard of Black History. Black History reminds us of how both Democrats and Republicans have harmed and sought to help Black Americans. If the authentic needs and interests of Black Americans and all Americans can be addressed from the left or the right, so be it. We who are black have wondered at times if Democrats and Republicans have simply wanted to “sign us up” and no more. Our interests; Reading levels in public schools, closing the economic, educational, employment, health care and influence gaps between blacks and whites. “A rising tide” that lifts the fragile boats that blacks are in, will lift all boats!

4. This Black History Month can be the month when all of us allow the commitments and contributions of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, and Barbara Jordan, all same gender loving persons, to put and end to discrimination against persons because of who and how they love. Baldwin, a writer and activist, Rustin, a Civil Rights Movement organizer, and Jordan, a Congresswoman, enriched our lives, regardless of who we are. The present chaos in the USA will not be transformed if we who are black, and those who are not, continue to allow our sexual, faith, and fear-based attitudes and actions relegate to the sidelines, LGBTQ persons.

5. Black History as it identifies “The Best of Blackness” reveals that we have not engaged in a tit for tat response to those who harmed us. We could have exercised our 2nd Amendment Rights and “taken up arms” against state and national government tyranny. Instead as led by Martin Luther King, John Lewis and others we chose Nonviolence. Our present national chaos results from a reliance on “verbal violence” as political candidates assaulted each other verbally. While we cheered them on. My fear is that our legitimate concerns about the present occupant of the White House will keep us from acknowledging some positives that might be hidden as we disagree with him. A replication of the sometimes race-based negative response to President Obama in a negative response to all of the Trump agenda, can harm our “permanent interests” as justice focused human beings. The incumbent government is “shooting itself in its collective feet”, and needs no help from the rest of us.

I watched with interest and a bit of “shock and awe” as President Trump met with his African American supporters. I thought of Frederick Douglass and Senator Ed Brooke, Republicans, who are heroes of mine. Will the black supporters of President Trump use this Black History Month to take him to the newly opened Museum and interpret for him, why his “birther” fascination did not make him a racist, but it revealed how irrelevant and inconsequential Black History is to him.

We who black, find truth in Carter Woodson’s “The Miseducation of the Negro.” But there is a larger miseducation or no education we must face this Black History Month.

It is the absence of an understanding of how Black History with its tribulations and triumphs can serve to guide the nation that we love to a more just and better place.

Martin Luther King described the people in that place, “The Beloved Community.” “We Are Family,” let us begin to live that way.

 

Rev. Gil Caldwell

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. His recent book, Something Within: Works by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is available from Church Within A Church. Gil's advocacy efforts were also featured in the film "From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?" Learn more at truthinprogress.com
Reflection on the first gathering of the Commission on a Way Forward
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