Mark your calendars, because from April 23-29, 2023 we will be celebrating National Library Week. The theme for this week is “There’s More to the Story.” Kelly Yang will serve as honorary chair of National Library Week for 2023.
Be sure to check out the website for the American Library Association for Celebration Days During National Library Week, Free National Library Week Tools, and the history of National Library Week. No matter where you are around the world, don’t forget to show support for these institutions housed with a plethora of resources covering topics you never imagined!
I often talk about the power of libraries and the adventure, excitement, and relevance they deliver to everyone who explores these powerhouses of information. I am grateful to be a contributing part of these institutions because libraries are one ginormous playground of knowledge! How can libraries add more power to your story?
Memories can be haunting, melancholy, or nostalgic. November isNational Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, not to be confused with World Alzheimer’s Month which is commemorated in September. This national campaign is designed to educate the public on the Alzheimer’s epidemic in the United States of America. This month, we also observe National Family Caregivers Month where we honor family members and those who serve as caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients. Thank you.
Quite often, when you are visiting family who lives out of town, you typically spend 99.9% of the time at your relative’s home. There are home-cooked meals and endless conversations to catch up on, and oh yes, suddenly falling asleep from eating too much. 😲 Recurring visits can mean replaying the same activities. Yet, how often do you make the city or town you visit an adventure of magnificent experiences?
I visited the town where my mother is from and looked at it differently this time. I looked at it from the view of a tourist and didn’t think about how that part of the Lowcountry of South Carolina was steeped in mind-blowing history that I knew about but landmarks I never saw, like The Robert Smalls House on Prince Street or the Pat Conroy Literary Center.
To give you a brief overview, The Robert Smalls House was originally constructed around 1840 by Smalls’s enslaver, Henry McKee. This building served as a setting for some of the most influential years of Robert Smalls’s life – from his time of enslavement to his service as a member of the United States House of Representatives, and as one of the most influential African American figures during the Reconstruction Era. In the midst of the Civil War, Smalls commandeered a Confederate ship and delivered its 16 black men, women, and children passengers from slavery to freedom. Read more about Robert Smalls by clickinghere.
The Pat Conroy Literary Center nurtures a diverse community of writers, readers, teachers, and students by offering educational programs and special events. After graduating from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, Conroy taught English in Beaufort, South Carolina. He then accepted a job teaching children in a one-room schoolhouse on remote Daufuskie Island, South Carolina. Conroy was fired at the conclusion of his first year on the island for his unconventional teaching practices, including his refusal to use corporal punishment on students. He later wrote “The Water Is Wide” based on his experiences as a teacher. It was also made into a feature film, Conrack, starring Jon Voight in 1974. Read more about Pat Conroy by clickinghere.
Here are a few photos from my little romp around town. Even though I tried beating the dark to snap these pictures, there are professional photos that could be found on the respective websites. You can click on these thumbnails, and they will enlarge in another window. But the moral of my story is to explore the city or town you live in. It’s exciting and is like taking a field trip when you were in school. If you have writer’s block, then jump in your car or take a walk and discover something you never saw before.
Yesterday, what turned into a celebration of life for one of my first cousins, who happened to be the oldest on her maternal and paternal sides, was of course a sad occasion, but turned into something more amazing. My cousin Alice was a walking, talking archive of history, and a well-rounded humanitarian. I’m not just saying that because we were related. We shared commonalities but there was so much I never knew because we didn’t talk about each other’s monumental accomplishments when we got together.
My dear cousin began her professional career in education, first as a teacher, then as an assistant principal, then as a personnel administrator. Guided by unwavering faith, she was a distinguished leader in the community. Her accolades could not be measured because there were so many things she did so unselfishly for so many and never boasted about them. But, as people shared their memories of her, it blew my mind how much she served others and the sacrifice she made for so many, never complaining about it. She wore some BIG shoes, and oh my goodness, what big shoes she left.
When we say, “Those are some big shoes to fill,” we don’t talk about the shoe size someone wore, but how hard the next person would have to work in order to match the previous person’s standards because they raised the bar of achievement. But we can never fill someone else’s shoes. We have our own shoes to fill. We have a divine purpose in this life. Of course, our days won’t always be a bed of roses because there are thorns among those blossoms. But the impact we make and the work we do, let it speak for us. As novelists would say, don’t just tell your audience the story, show them.
We have been given gifts, talents, and tools to use in order to contribute to mankind and womankind that will lift up and produce fruitfulness. What is it that you can do to fill your shoes in a positive and productive way?
So, as we stood at the Beaufort National Cemetary yesterday, where my grandfather and so many of my elders who served in the military are buried, I am reminded of the incredible lineage I come from and the big shoes these teachers filled. A line on my cousin’s obituary read, “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise.” So I am encouraged to remain committed to the purpose I must serve, and become a better person. I ask myself this ever-evolving question, “How will I leave a positive impression and contribution to society?” As I walk to the beat of a different drummer, I have my own shoes to fill but don’t we all?
“That which is has already been, and what is to be, has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.” -Ecclesiastes 3:15
History. We read about it, hear about it, and have lived it, but have we truly paid attention and learned the critical lessons from it? Have we simply said that was in the past, from such an antiquated time? Or, do we become proactive, learning the lessons of times gone by, never to repeat those mistakes or any atrocities that can easily flare up again, which could destroy a culture, people, or the spirit?
The past cannot be rewritten unless you are writing a novel or a fictional period-piece film. Nor can you sanitize atrocities of the past that came to seek, kill and destroy. We rise from the ashes to never again succumb to those destructive things. We must choose to become better than those wounds and abuses that tried to destroy us. We learn and then learn some more. We don’t take things for granted by refusing to heed the warnings of the present events that could tragically annihilate us for years to come. We are birthed from uncertainty, but our direction and path are the way to probability and possibility. So, for today, walk in peace my friends. Remember the past, but don’t linger there, grow from it.
When I began researching my family tree, there was so much of the past, many unanswered questions that I am not sure I will ever uncover the answers to them. While I achieved a lot regarding education and my exposure to things my ancestors never experienced, I realize they were exposed to horrifying treatment and made sacrifices I could never fathom. I do not take my gratitude for granted. Looking back, I realize that my freedom is not free because a huge price was paid by those who came before me, whether they were family or not.
It’s rather sad to witness some who have expressed eliminating the discussion of pivotal historical events that may not have occurred in the most positive light. They believe that people need to get over it and stop discussing it by rewriting more sanitized versions or completely eliminating certain parts of history from history books in school. I have to ask how these individuals who express such self-sensitivity do not think about how much the atrocities that happened to so many oppressed people, whose descendants cannot erase nor forget about their history, must feel. Do these individuals ever embody a sense of compassion to understand the scars people from many oppressed cultures suffered for the sake of the exaltation of a self-chosen few? I liken these discussions to the scene in Poltergeist where the bodies buried underground begin to surface and haunt more people, all because someone decided that what folks don’t know won’t hurt them. But people don’t forget, including the stories about their unsavory historical moments. We must vow to do better and be better.
Juneteenth, short for “June Nineteenth” marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865. The troops came to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were set free. The arrival of the federal troops came two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Many ask if the physical freedom of those enslaved individuals included emotional and spiritual emancipation too.
Let’s face it, you cannot erase history no matter how much you may try to sanitize it. Even if you choose to ignore it or avoid having a conversation about it, you still can never erase it. No, in our current social climate, we won’t suddenly have a kumbaya moment. If we don’t, however, shed light on healing from the atrocities that occurred in the past, those atrocities may only repeat history in a new and unsanitized way, sooner or later, and probably be far worse than it was in the past. For now, we celebrate with unshakeable resolve.
“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” — Marian Wright Edelman
Teachers. Education. Learning.
Even though it is shocking, it comes as no surprise to me that there is a severe shortage of teachers and educators everywhere. I am from a family of education essential workers, you know, those educators who looked out for the health and welfare of their students back in the day. Education was not an option for me but an essential part of my life, and my mother made sure of that. For centuries, many of my ancestors were forbidden to learn to read without harsh repercussions. So, trust me, I don’t assume or take this privilege for granted.
Looking at what many public school teachers are faced with nowadays, low pay, poor benefits, and overworked with lesson plans out of the wazoo, I wonder why more people aren’t bothered by or speaking up voicing their concerns on behalf of our education warriors.
It’s appalling, however, that many decision makers are putting teachers in a position that seems as if they are blindfolded and standing in front of a firing squad. Some folks are educationally inept at making critical decisions for teachers and students, being clueless about what they truly need. When it comes to educating our children, we should be all hands on deck, especially with our public schools. So many programs have been scaled back that were essentially feeding the minds of our students with healthy nutrients, even during afterschool programs. While I don’t have children in school, I still see and interact with children who are hungry and thirsty for knowledge but are being fed unnutritious and toxic food that stunts their growth. We can’t block their curiosity.
We must be mindful on behalf of our children because there are more forces out there than we know, wanting to delete any possibility of helping them to develop their potential or excelling in far-reaching achievements. We cannot rewrite the historical playbook of our country to change or dilute the narrative of ugly portions of our history that some don’t want to be discussed or published. I find this utterly unacceptable, although not at all shocking, trying to retell a story of history that cannot be changed. We can’t delete horrendous mistakes, we learn from them and grow from them, so those errors will never be repeated.
Is it too little too late to try to get more teachers back into the classroom? Are administrations truly listening to their safety concerns about being in the classrooms without any health and sanitary precautions to make sure they, along with their students, do not get a transmittable disease that could have deadly consequences? Are we putting our teachers in harm’s way by making selfish, and unwise decisions for them?
I suppose as I remember my first-grade teacher, Isabelle Hilton Barnes, she was an angel whom I can’t forget just because of how she made all of us feel. She made us want to learn even if we didn’t know we wanted to. I still marvel at how our teachers were intuned to our education, our development, our health, and our welfare. Do you remember your first teacher who made such a lasting impression on your life that today if you were to see her/him they would be proud of how you turned out? So, here’s to saluting our educational essential warriors: our teachers, our coaches who also teach, our principals, guest teachers, and substitute teachers. THANK YOU!
In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.”— Alex Haley, Roots
Never forget your history, for it paves the way to your future. When I began my research to gather more information about my genealogy tree, I realized there remain many untold stories and mysteries that are buried in time. Why the secrets? Why the lack of discussions? I wished I thought about asking those questions many years before I asked them, especially when so many family members were alive. I guess you don’t think about such an inquiry when you’re young. You simply think about living your own life. You don’t think about the generations ahead of you dying when they do, taking those untold stories with them to the grave.
The horror of danger, humiliation, and suffrage were issues I think many of my family members couldn’t bring themselves to recount and talk about. While searching and finding fragments of historical puzzle pieces, I learned a lot and wished my parents were here to share this information with them. A few in my generation question why our fore-parents were silent about sharing the details of our family history. Yet, in all fairness, we didn’t bother to ask questions, the right questions. Now, we know better, we are bolder, braver, we uncover the stories, and we tell them so generations hereafter won’t forget. They made it possible for me to be here and to have the opportunities I have. I can’t disappoint my lineage by being compacent and complicit.
I look in the mirror every day, and I celebrate their voices I owe it to them to do better and be better I owe it to them, no matter the day, hour, month, or year I must be strong, courageous, audacious, and not fear.
I owe it to them to show that their work or fight was not futile I owe it to them to use my spiritual gifts and physical talents to continue building on their foundation of experience and wisdom their blood runs through my veins, I hear their rallying cry from the depths.
I owe it to my ancestors to take up the mantle and to carry on for to everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose to build up, to love, to root, and to plant from their suffrage I owe it to them to persist, persevere, and make progress.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Juneteenth Celebration at Emancipation Park 1880. A group photograph of thirty-one people at a Juneteenth Celebration in Emancipation Park in Houston’s Fourth Ward.)
Freedom, the state of not being imprisoned, enslaved, restrained or hindered is a precious form of liberation to indeed celebrate. We celebrate Independence Day on July 4 in the United States of America to remember our independence from Great Britain in 1776. Around the world, throughout history many countries declared their independence from certain regimes. Today, June 19, we celebrate Juneteenth in the USA.
The celebration of Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day) commemorates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Short for June Nineteenth, Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and to ensure that all enslaved people be free.
This month is especially momentous because two days ago, on Thursday June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris signed into law a bill establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day, as a federal holiday. Why is this bill beyond monumental and incredible? Because it is long overdue. How long? President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 declaring all enslaved people in the states that were engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
This holiday observes the end to slavery in the United States of America and is considered the longest running African American holiday. The Emancipation proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 didn’t instantly free any enslaved people. It only applied to places under Confederate control. Please open your minds to understand why Juneteenth is a celebration of victory for all enslaved people then, along with their descendants since that time. This is why it is so important to remember and to never forget the significance of this observance. We don’t want to revisit or reenact a time that was so painful, divisive, and oppressive ever again, for anyone or any race of people. Click here to read more about this powerful, historical celebration.