“Our Way—To Say—Thank You”

Over the years there has been a myriad of explanations why there should be a Black History Month. There have been just as many criticisms of the celebration. Most critics will argue that Black history need not be acknowledged only one month out of the year, but instead should be recognized every day of the year. One of the leading opponents is Morgan Freeman who calls Black History Month ridiculous. “You’re not going to relegate my history to a month,” he said in a 2005 interview on Sixty Minutes. “I don’t want a Black History Month,” he continued. “Black history is American history.


According to Freeman’s thinking, Dr. John Hope Franklin’s extensive research and publication From Slavery to Freedom was an exercise in futility, as was Lerone Bennett Jr.’s Before the Mayflower. Both books concentrate on the history of Blacks in this country. These two scholarly men recognized that the dearth of information on Black people, found in the history books and novels, was reason enough to write on the subject. It is arguable that Franklin’s and Bennett’s works brought to light a great deal of our history, not covered in the more traditional books.

However, let me offer additional reasons why we celebrate Black History Month.

It is: “Our Way—To Say—Thank You,” to our ancestors who were captured and thrown into dungeons in their homeland of Africa, and forced out through the “Door of no Return” into the holes of slave ships, piled atop each other for an average of a three month trip in the middle passage.

It is: “Our Way—To Say—Thank You,” to our ancestors who landed on the shores of this country and faced an unbelievable evil in a strange country, among strange talking and looking people.

It is: “Our Way—To Say—Thank You,” to our ancestors who endured over four hundred years of oppression at the hands of oppressors who had the unmitigated arrogance to consider themselves masters.

It is: “Our Way—To Say—Thank You,” to our ancestors who confronted an apartheid system of abuse to include lynching of our men, raping of our women and denial of equal opportunity, but still they hung on, fought back, and brought us up the rough side of the mountain so that men like Morgan Freeman could benefit from their sacrifice.

It is: “Our Way—To Say—Thank You,” to the greatest generation of freedom fighters the world has ever known, who took on an organized force of violent resistance in a peaceful and nonviolent manner and won.

It is: “Our Way—To Say—Thank You,” to the writers, painters, sculptors, poets, musicians and athletes who have excelled in the performance of their particular art and sport, and as a result helped create and sustain one of the finest cultures, known as the African American Culture, in the entire world.

Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Week (extended to month in 1976) elaborated in the following statement his reasoning; “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

Need I say or write more in defense of Black History Month? Dr. Woodson’s explanation is sufficient reason for continuing the tradition he began back in 1926.

Meet the Best Young Writers in the Country!

Young Writers Workshop Participants | Zora Festival 2015
Young Writers Workshop Participants | Zora Festival 2015

This past weekend I had the honor and privilege to conduct a creative writing workshop, at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival for the Arts and Humanities in Eatonville, Florida. What made this an exceptional workshop is that the participants were twelve young men and women in grades eight through high school, from Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago, Atlanta and Silver Spring, Maryland. They sat through two intense sessions on Friday and Saturday, thoroughly engaged in the information disseminated to them by Petra Lewis, Tony Lindsay, D. L. Grant and me.

We touched on the elements of the craft of writing effective fiction to include theme, plot, character development, dialogue, setting and scenes. On the final day of the session, we had them to do an opening for a short story they planned to write over the next six months for future publication as an anthology. They tossed and turned in the chairs, got up, stretched, frowned and struggled, but ultimately they read their openings to us. We all were floored and thrilled with the creative words that they had penned to paper and as they read them aloud, we smiled. We knew, right in that room, late Saturday afternoon, that we had some of the most talented, creative young writers in the country. But we also knew, there are many more young talented writers that did not have the opportunity to participate as these youngsters did. The question we pondered was why isn’t this talent being captured in the public schools?  If not for the interest we took in reaching out to find the talent, to work with the talent and to help perfect the talent, many of these young folks would never be recognized for their talent.

We often hear leaders talking about how to improve the quality of our neighborhoods and communities. Let me make a suggestion. Join us in our continuing effort to work with our young, as they develop their skills as writers. And while developing those skills, they also improve on their reading levels. During our session with the youth, one of the students asked the question was it necessary to read in order to be a good writer? I suggested that mediocre writers never read, but great writers not only write, but also read. The point is, you read to become a better writer and to also understand your history and heritage. It helps you to know who you are and allows you to express it through your writing.

I will continue to work closely with my twelve young writers, as they perfect their short stories for publication in the fall. I will also, with the assistance of the adults who served as chaperones for the three days the students were in Eatonville, begin to plan our workshop for next year at the Festival. In 2015, we had only twelve students but next year we plan to double that number and the following year add even more students. Eventually, we can conduct these workshops in different parts of the country, and the number of talented writers will constantly grow. This may not be the perfect solution as an answer to improving the quality of life in many of our communities, but it is what we, as writers, have to offer. Hopefully, others in various professions will do the same. Finally, we do not commit to this for pay but for passion. Do something because it is the right commitment to make and it will always be a more perfect product than when you do it for money.  When we finished our session on Saturday afternoon, all twelve of our writers jumped up and shouted, “We are the best,” and as you look closely at them in the picture that accompanied this post, you are viewing a future Pulitzer Prize Winning Author because they really are the best.