Contributed by: Edward Driver, LCSW, MSW, Clinical Director, The Grove, an IMPOWER Program
When I was asked if I wanted to write about “What Black History Month means to me” my mind went into a few directions. As one who has always been cognizant of the atrocities of slavery upon African Americans, I thought of Carter G. Woodson who held the first “Lincoln Jubilee”; which was a celebration of the 50 years since emancipation from slavery and was held in Chicago”. Originating as Negro History Week, Woodson contended that the teaching of Black History was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of Blacks within broader society as he stated, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
I reflect back to watching Roots when it premiered on television in 1977 as I at that time had little understanding as to what slavery really was and how dehumanizing it was to my people. Watching Roots at such an early and impressionable age provided the impetus as I forged my own journey. However, I also needed for my own children to understand slavery as we watched Roots together when they were children and I began to instill tradition in them!
I remember looking upon the Atlantic Ocean in 1997 and vowing that I would make the struggles and enslavement of my ancestors mean something as I felt a need for my father to look down upon me and my children and state to his ancestors, “that’s MY boy!
However, I still felt lost as I wondered about my history as I continued to ask, “where the heck am I from?” Understanding geography and the slave trade, I knew that my ancestors “probably” came from the west coast of Africa but I had no reference point until I received my results from ancestry and discovered my father’s side originated in Ghana and my mother’s side originated in Nigeria. I then began my initial construction of my family tree and actually found the descendants of my paternal slave owners and of course being me, I emailed them.
To my surprise a wonderful woman named Carolyn responded to my email and helped me with the missing pieces of my family tree and now in Mr. Woodson’s words, I now had a history!
For me, Black History Month continues to forge the belief that on a macro level, we as African Americans need to understand and celebrate the history and accomplishments of our people. But on a micro level, I and my family needed to know the history of the Drivers, including John Calvin Driver who owned Romeo Driver.
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