We have begun Afro-April because the Black delegation has unanimously decided that Black History Month has been extended to Black History Year every year! Before the Black Lives Matter movement I had the honor of going to the Reginald F. Lewis museum in Baltimore City, MD. It was there that I had the great pleasure of looking at the exhibits of Benjamin Banneker and Araminta Ross, serving as a reminder of the stony road we travel and how far we have to go. There was representation of oppression and the freedom we crave in the art that was displayed in these exhibits. As I woke up in Southern Oregon to mountain tops and premium coffee, I couldn’t help but notice that something was missing-Black representation. The history taught in Oregon public schools was watered down to suit the palate of the predominantly white audience and the museums here certainly reflect that.
Now that the movement has gone from the pavement to public policy, I couldn’t get the thought of the Oregon Black Pioneers 501c(3) organization out of my mind. They created books to highlight African American representation in Polk and Multnomah county but what do we know so far about Southern Oregon? I know of the overwhelming klan presence but none of these things were mentioned when I went to school here, just that Oregon “ended slavery” before entering the union. Education should not be modified to fit white comfort because that muffles the truth. We owe our children, all of our children, better than that! Here in the Rogue Valley I hear the locals say, I don’t see color, and my immediate response to that is - neither do your textbooks. I was contacted through the grapevine about working with an amateur historian of sorts who wants to collaborate with SOEquity to unearth the omitted history here in Southern Oregon. This is something that I would dedicate all of my time on but my schedule is full for now. I told them that I would consider this in the future and I can’t wait! The current state of affairs in this country has put me in a sour mood but nothing warms my heart more than seeing the community come together for positive change. Stay tuned Southern Oregon because the Black leaders here are working diligently to get our color and culture seen. The 'Say Their Names' memorial is already underway but that is just the beginning, there is still more to come.
The focus isn’t just on Black representation, I want to see more Asian and Indigenous representation as well. Collaboration on something as huge as this isn’t to be taken lightly but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. When the time is right, I want the next generation to be able to open a textbook and see history for what it is - not a glamorization or watered down story. The point of learning about the history of oppression is to know how to prevent its repetition, so keep a lookout for growth and resolution.