A few days ago, the Lord spoke to my heart and the Spirit gave birth to this article today. It is essential that we as African Americans remember the struggle. It is amazing how soon we forget. We have a wonderful opportunity during the month of February, known as Black History Month, to place in our hearts and our memories that God has brought us through some dark and dismal days.
This is a time of celebration as well as a time of remembrance. Think about this for a moment – in January we observed 150 years of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation; we observed the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and we also witnessed the inauguration of President Barak Obama for his second term in office. Yes, this month we will remember those faithful men and women of God who have given their lives in the fight for justice and equality. Yet, for some reason we now commit so many crimes to one another. With the lynchings, bombings and discrimination that were done to us as a people, we seem to have little or no regard for the quality of life. As we look back over the years our women were raped and treated like slaves, and in many cases, the men were also disrespected, beaten and abused. It seems as though we have lost our sense of identity and pride. Our families are headed in large numbers by single mothers, as the Black male is often missing. A disproportionate number of our African-American youth seem to have very little to look forward to, and many are in jail rather than in places of higher learning. Every day they are killing each other in our cities and suburbs throughout the country. We must find a way to refocus on the positive images and tenets of our faith.
If we do not know our history we are doomed for failure. This matter of remembrance is nothing new, for the people of God were called to remember the struggle. In the book of Joshua, 4:4-7, the Word of God reads in this manner, “So Joshua called together the12 men he had chosen — one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder —12 stones in all, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
God wants us to remember that our ancestors stand as a memorial to how we have come through the darkness of slavery. We have come a mighty long way by the hand of God – no, we have not reached the Promised Land, but we have come a mighty long way. There is much land to be possessed; there are still many doors of opportunity that are closed; there is still racism, poverty, sexism, and classism, but we can overcome all of these if we work together as a people. Let us not forget the progress we have made; let us not be satisfied with simply a month of observance, but rather strive to keep hope alive. Tell your children how we made it this far and share with them those great patriarchs who stood against all odds that we could gain freedom. Let us reclaim our rightful place with God as a people who have high moral values, and let us honor each other and never forget who we are and whose we are.
The Rev. Charles W. Quann is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Montgomery County.