Lost your wallet? Most times it is not the few dollars we had in our wallets. It is the loss of our identity – social security card, driver’s license, etc. It is a pain in the neck to say the least. We quickly find out how many times we are asked for some form of photo ID. It is even worse in other situations when we are asked to produce our original birth certificate or a certified copy.
Then there is a loss of precious memories! After almost every major disaster– hurricane, tornado, fire, etc.– TV shows gut-wrenching images. Images of a devastated woman holding the partially destroyed photograph of a happier time. Or maybe it was the charred picture frame of Mom and Dad on their wedding day. “It’s all I have!”. “It’s all gone!”
Proof of who we are and the joys and sorrows of our lives. Something very precious is gone.
I have rarely thought of the unrecognized losses of so many refugees around the world. Most times fleeing for their safety or hastily deported from the land they grew up in with little than the clothes on their backs. They have forever lost record of who they are or where they came from… or those left behind. No treasured pictures.
Then there is ancestory.com. People seem to hunger to know more about their roots. Stories abound of discovering ancestors who were heroes or villains. “Who knew my Uncle was a judge in Italy?”
This hunger to know our roots goes back to biblical times. We even have a detailed genealogy of Jesus. Our minds tend to go numb each time this genealogy is read. We miss the significance that it is complete with unlikely and unsavory ancestors, hardly what we would expect of the Messiah.
Seeking our heritage
I admit it is only recently that I have come to a new understanding of the importance of Black History Month. I knew of it and respected what I thought it stood for. But in light of thinking of the loss of my irreplaceable documents and memories I have come to a deeper appreciation of the longing behind it… the longing to recognize the trouble I have seen or joys that I did not know were mine to celebrate.
When I think about what I have written above I can appreciate the need to celebrate and grieve. Each year I see displays or essays about for me formerly unknown inventions of African Americans, the contributions to the arts that I have taken for granted. I also learn more about the incredible sufferings of people whose only sin was having different color skin.
I only recently learned of the Tulsa Oklahoma black business district so prosperous it was dubbed “the Negro Wall Street”. For two days beginning May 31, 1921, the mob set fire to hundreds of black-owned businesses and homes in Greenwood. More than 300 black people were killed. More than 10,000 black people were left homeless, and 40 blocks were left smoldering. Survivors recounted black bodies loaded on trains and dumped off bridges into the Arkansas River and, most frequently, tossed into mass graves.
I have also become aware of Black History month as my history. Each year I learn that it is African Americans who were responsible for things like refrigerated trucks, three-signal traffic lights, central heating furnaces, mailboxes or even “sanitary belts”. The history of computing and space exploration is filled with their names.