Black History Month - Feb. 2013

In recognition of Black History Month, we asked members of the Union community to submit their reflections and thoughts. Each participant was asked to write a response, in their own words, to the question “What does Black History Month mean to you?”

Ray Jordan What Black History Month means to me

Ray Jordan
Ph.D.,  '13

I often consider myself fortunate to have come of age at the brink of the information age. When I was born in Oakland, California at the end of the 1970s, my maternal grandmother relocated “back home” to rural Arkansas. Subsequently, my mother followed, making the rural South the context of my most formative years. As a child, I often lamented and despised what I deemed as the cultural anemia and regional isolation rural life represented, but as an adult I have come to treasure my childhood, honoring this fading memory of an America long gone.

Rural Arkansas of the 1980s symbolized a life of simplicity. We made phone calls on a “party line” while dialing a rotary phone. Our meals were prepared with love and eaten in pure joy without thoughts of calories, trans fats, or sodium (although I don’t recommend this now). Overwhelmingly our information came from local newspapers (which included the names of honor roll students) while our entertainment came from three television networks. Friday nights were spent at sporting events rooting for the town’s one and only high school and Sundays were spent in church. While I am grateful for the technological advances of the 21st century, living my childhood in the America of yesteryear helped nurture within me an appreciation for history and emphasized the importance of intergenerational community building. So, Black History Month means something different and more to me than if I had not had those experiences.

To me, Black History Month means being cared for by older ladies at church, such as Ms. Cora and Ms. Cabbean, both retired educators who always had an encouraging word as they faithfully taught Sunday school and coordinated Vacation Bible School. It means listening to the stories of my grandmother, Ms. Virginia, and her siblings Uncle D.B., Uncle Joe, and Aunt Irene, as they reminisced about their childhood and experiences picking cotton and tending the farm. Black History Month also conjures memories of community dialogue from Bro. Mervin, Ms. Juanita, Bro. Skip and Sis. Bonnie, as they described attending segregated schools that offered lackluster resources but offered an abundance of love. It means honoring the grit, tenacity, and endurance of my foreparents and being filled with gratitude for their sacrifice. Finally, it means taking the lessons of their pain and passing them on to both my students and children, insisting that a new generation of Americans, black or otherwise, not forget the wisdom, passion and fortitude of yesterday, which has allowed the brighter and better America of today. This is what Black History Month means to me.

Additional Reflections on Black History Month

Debbie Hawkins - B.S. Social Work, '14