Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hallowed Grounds

It’s Black History Month.  “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American memories” is the theme for this year.  Announcing it, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History said, “The history of African Americans unfolds across the canvas of America, beginning before the arrival of the Mayflower and continuing to the present.  From port cities where Africans disembarked, from slave ships to the battlefields where their descendants fought for freedom, from the colleges and universities where they pursued education to places where they created communities during centuries of migration, the imprint of Americans of African descent are deeply embedded in the narrative of the American past.  These sites prompt us to remember, and over time, became hallowed grounds.”
They listed some of the sites to include the Kingsley Plantation, DuSable’s home site, the numerous stops along the Underground Railroad, Seneca Village, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, and Frederick Douglass’ home.  Others are Mary McLeod Bethune’s home in Washington, D.C., 125th Street in Harlem, Beale Street in Memphis, and Sweet Auburn Avenue in Atlanta.

Speaking on the theme at an event to celebrate the month at Baze University in Abuja, guest speaker Douglas Owen-Ali traced the history of the month to 1915 when Carter Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.  Drawing from the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., he encouraged students of the university and high school students present to dream and never allow their dreams die.  He described Martin Luther King as a prince of destiny and President Barack Obama as a child of destiny.
Michael Hodd, Baze University’s vice chancellor, shared an experience he had as a student in the United States during the 1960s.  He and a fellow British student entered a bar somewhere in Alabama not realizing it was a “blacks only” bar.  The owners were gracious enough to serve them and make them feel welcome.  When it was time to leave, however, their hosts told them they would have to exit through the back door because coming out the front door would be seen as inflammatory.  Compared with today’s circumstances, Mr. Hodd marveled at how significant the changes that have taken place in his lifetime.
In his proclamation, President Barack Obama said, “From the Revolutionary War through the abolitionist movement, to marches from Selma to Montgomery and across America today, African Americans have remained devoted to the proposition that all of us are created equal, even when their own rights were denied.”

He encouraged Americans to reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans, and resolve to continue the march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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