When a loved one or someone close to your heart makes their transition, your immediate feelings of sadness and loss can be overwhelming. I remember when each of my parents passed away many, many years ago, I was devastated. The emotions of regret and despair seemed almost unbearable. Then slowly, I reminded myself that their spirits are eternal. As I began to think about the good times we spent together and all that they had taught me, my sorrow decreased. The pain was gradually replaced by appreciation for the fullness of their lives and the indelible impression they made on so many.
Our Ancestors are those who came before us within our immediate families as well as those whom we may have never met. The Heroes and Sheroes of our distant and recent past are our spiritual ancestors and it’s important to keep and honor their memory.
When school children are taught about Black History, the exemplary accomplishments of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and George Washington Carver are typically highlighted. Each has made a powerful impact on this country. It’s also vital for young children of color to know that there are countless other African-Americans who paved the way for their greatness. There is a vast richness to OURstory that cannot be contained within the 28 or 29 days of February.
We must ask ourselves,
How can I integrate more of my culture into my daily life?
How can I be a better example in the remembrance of our Ancestors?
What can I do to keep their power and message alive?
It is very clear by their life’s work that our Heroes and Sheroes loved their people. More than anything, they wanted us to WAKE UP, Love ourselves, and successfully navigate the society in which we live. As the sons and daughters of those who came before us, it is our duty to honor and keep their legacy and life’s work alive. How can we do this?
#1 – Study and learn about the lives of our Ancestors, their mission and accomplishments.
The loved ones in our immediate families may have passed down personal stories that were important to them. Collect these and other information from as many family members as you can. Document all that you find as a reference point for the youth. Many of the spiritual Ancestors of our recent past have published extraordinary books, articles, and lectures. Read them, study them, and share those jewels; especially with the younger generation. A short reference list of scholars to start with is: Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Cheik Anta Diop, Ivan Van Sertima, and Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan to name a few. Also, get a copy of Hidden Colors and watch it with your family and friends.
#2 – Include our Ancestors in your conversation.
An important way to honor our Ancestors is to speak of them as if they are a part of you, because they are. There are many life lessons that were taught by our elders that we can reference and include in our everyday conversations. A lot of time and energy is expended by keeping up with celebrity news or replaying the slanted opinions of mainstream media. Instead of giving them your precious time and attention, find ways to work the positive input or guidance of our Heroes and Sheroes into the conversation. For example: Dr. John Henrik Clarke, noted Pan-African Scholar, Author, and Lecturer said, “If we are going to be master of our destiny, we must be masters of the IDEAS that influence our destiny.”; Educator and Mom Extraordinaire (my Mom), Katherine Mae Tucker-Bell said, “You always get more bees with honey than with vinegar.”; and Renown Poet and Activist, Dr. Maya Angelou said, “Be the Rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” You’d be surprised what powerful nuggets are remembered and circulated; especially among our young people. They are ALWAYS listening.
#3 – Introduce or re-introduce Our Ancestors to a school age child.
It’s a well-known fact that our school aged children are only exposed to a fraction of the great people of color who have walked this earth. You’d be surprised what a life saver you could be to a young family who may not be able to help their elementary or middle school child pull off an elaborate school assignment or book report. Your input could be the difference between that child passing or failing a class. Or more importantly, your input could make a lifelong contribution to that child’s self-esteem and cultural pride.
#4 – Support Black Owned Bookstores.
These institutions are slowly becoming extinct. Their vision of bringing art, culture, and literary works to the public is crucial. We must participate in their growth and survival. Please circulate your dollars in Black owned bookstores by buying books, art, audio and visual programs, and supporting local authors whose works are in these bookstores. This is a list of Black-Owned Bookstores complied by the AALBC (African American Literature Book Club).
#5 – Challenge your peer group to learn a fact about our Ancestors and share those facts.
Did you know that there was not only one, but TWO African American Women Millionaires who lived during the early part of the 20th century? These women were also generous philanthropists and activists for people of color. Wouldn’t you agree that sharing this info is a LOT more empowering than spreading the latest celebrity gossip from TMZ? I would!! As entertaining as it may be to hear about who Idris Elba is dating, that juicy info really has nothing to do with building or growing a cultural or financial legacy for your family. Learning about the entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators who came before us provides inspiration for you and your children.
Many are familiar with Madame C.J. Walker, African American woman millionaire who built a hair care dynasty in the early 1900’s. However, Annie Turnbo Malone was also an African American woman millionaire who lived during that time. Mrs. Malone built a financial empire with assets worth upwards of $14 million dollars in 1920 !!! There is SUCH a rich history and cultural pride among people of Color. PLEASE don’t allow anyone to tell you or your children that “Black people haven’t contributed anything to America.” (OR the world for that matter). Challenge your friends and associates to learn more about the tremendous accomplishments of our Ancestors. Share that info and pass it on. Knowing that there are and were enormous masses of accomplished and brilliant people who look like YOU is an instant source of inspiration; especially for your children and grandchildren.
These are just 5 of the many ways to honor our Ancestors. What are some of the things you have done or would like to do to keep their memory alive? We’d love to hear about it. Much Love and Life Harmony, Linda
PHOTO: (Left column: Queen Nzingha, Dr. Sebi, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Middle Column: Katherine Mae Tucker Bell, My Mom, Edward Bell, Sr., My Dad, Right column: Dr. John Henricke Clarke, Missie Tucker, My GrandMom, Marcus Garvey