As we celebrate Black History Month, I’m sure you don’t have to look very far to find someone within your own family to honor. We often celebrate the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Madam CJ Walker, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks and the countless others who made our Black History so rich. However, consider celebrating those individuals who achieved great feats within your own family. Look at your family tree. Are there accomplishments or endeavors from your own grandmother or grandfather that are worth passing on to your children? What history exists right within your own family? Here are three ways to honor your family’s black history:
1. Talk to the older generation.
Write down the stories they share. Pass the stories along to your children, nieces and nephews. In my own family, my mother always shared how she had to move away from home as a young teen to finish school because the system would not send a bus to pick up, “just one little black girl who wanted an education.” At the first home where she boarded, the father there was “fresh” with her, and she had to move on. She boarded with another family and went home on the weekends. My mother did graduate high school and received a scholarship to college but didn’t go because her parents could not afford the books. My mother fought for her high school education. To me, that’s black history. Something to be passed on to my children and their children after that. This is a story that can help them take pride in their schooling and not take it for granted. What stories can you pass on to your children?
2. Have a multigenerational gathering.
Close the generational divide, and bring everyone together. Allow the older generation to tell their stories. If your family is anything like mine, then the family seniors will love to account tales of the past. All they need is a listening ear. I’m sure every older black person in the United States can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Ask the elders in your family and allow yourself to truly become fully engaged in their responses. That family history is not to be forgotten but passed along. Allow the younger generation to also participate in the story telling by sharing their thoughts about the first African American president or other current affairs.
3. Trace your family lineage
Many of our children will have no idea where they came from if this history is not captured. Try your hand at collecting this information the old-fashioned way (interview family members, find public archives, hire a genealogist). Or sign up for an online ancestry account. There are fees associated with most of these websites, but their offerings may be worth it. They have the ability to quickly pull public records, such as birth certificates and marriage licenses. Some of the sites even offer DNA testing. One of the greatest tragedies of our time is losing the wealth of knowledge and information held within the minds of our elders. To lose this wisdom to the grave is senseless, but to gather it is priceless. Celebrating Black History within your family can be fun and rewarding for all. Gather this history before it’s too late.
What black history is held within your family tree? Share here.