This week, we feature reflections by two local authors for Black History Month. First, Shannell Alyssa shares a reflection on the legacy of perserverance that has characterized her family through the years. Shannell is a local singer/songwriter and also just released a new song entitled “Seasons” – Click here to listen to it on Spotify.
In the backyard of my grandmother’s house there’s a big maple tree in the middle of the yard. I remember playing in that yard beneath the tree as a kid; games with cousins, garden work, and sometimes just lounging in the shade, all took place beneath that tree.
That tree was the focal point of my grandmother’s yard in the same way that she was a focal point in our family. Her home was the place that brought all siblings, children, aunts, uncles and cousins together for the holidays and special occasions.
Christianity has been the foundation of my family’s faith since before I was born. My grandparents taught my parents who taught my siblings and I the necessity of leaning on and trusting Christ. That is the foundation of my life; Christ is where I find hope and strength, and I don’t know where I would be without my faith in God.
Nearly 70 years ago she and my grandfather escaped to the northeast from the deep south of Alabama, determined to start over and create a better life for their future children. Their determination paid off, and I’m taking time this Black History Month to honor them.
Grandma passed away a little over a year ago, but the lessons she left behind are carrying out her legacy. She taught me many things, one of them was to love all people, regardless of background, race or anything else. Despite what she experienced in the south, she never strayed from this principle for all the years that I knew her.
This is me, and this is a part of my story.
I hope you can take time to remember America’s history this month. Remember the important parts of your story, and hold tightly to the ones you love.
In our second reflection, Kristin Hauser, Pastoral Minister for Young Adults at the Paulist Center, shares some important insights about how she celebrates Black History Month as a White person. Kristin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Leadership from Marian University Indianapolis and will finish up her M.Div at Boston College this spring.
In the United States and Canada, February is celebrated as Black History Month. It’s a time to lift up black voices and intentionally highlight the important achievements of black men and women, achievements that have been traditionally ignored or written-over by white authors, teachers, and legislators.
As a white person, I have often felt confused about what I am supposed to ‘do’ during Black History Month. I often get paralyzed by a mindset that says ‘who am I to talk about this? It’s not my history. I should let someone else speak.’ But like many things, I think this notion has both truth and lies to it. It’s true that I don’t have black skin or black ancestors. It’s true that I should be aware of my own privilege so as not to drown out the voices of people of color. But black history should be a part of the history that I know because it is the history of my community. And it’s the history that should have been told from the start.
I think this idea of untold stories touches me so deeply because it is so connected to who I am as a follower of Jesus. In celebrating the Eucharist, my community spends time remembering Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in a way that is so intimately connected to who we are as a people. This notion of memory goes all the way back to our Jewish origins, where communities would tell the story of the Exodus over and over again in order to remember what God had done for them. When you try to take away someone’s history, you are really trying to take away their identity and sometimes, even their way of connecting to God.
But all this still begs the question, what do I do as a white Catholic to celebrate Black History Month? I think the first thing that I do is to stay humble and open, recognizing that I will always need to keep growing into my respect of other people and other cultures. I want to lift up black voices, using my privilege to amplify rather than drown out. I want to support black artists, black firms, and black businesses. I want to intentionally take the time to read black literature and history.
I think it’s important for me to say that I absolutely do not have all the answers on this topic and I’m happy to engage in dialogue or accept feedback. I chose to speak about it though because it’s so important to think about. It’s so important to remember.
Last, Sheila Wise Rowe, local author/speaker of the new book, Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience, shares about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King right here in the Boston Common, the same location where the UniteBoston Celebration of Worship takes place.