As a student at Howard University, I minored in African-American Studies. With access to professors such as Civil Rights legend, Ron Walters and The Moorland–Spingarn Research Center, one of the world’s most comprehensive repositories of African-American history and culture, I was able to learn more about my heritage than I ever thought possible.
One of my favorite courses was “Blacks in the Arts.” I liked this class for a couple of reasons: 1. It was taught by three different professors, with three different teaching styles. Sometimes they’d get into heated debates that made class exciting. 2. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the arts. Literature, music, and drawing saved me from the ills of my inner city neighborhood and helped me to see that I could use my talents for more positive pursuits.
Although the class started at 8:00 a.m., I always perked up when the professors played a John Coltrane song, read a Langston Hughes poem, or projected a Jacob Lawrence painting on the screen. These artists not only shaped my tastes, but they also inspired me to share my rich culture with the next generation.
The Civil Rights movement, Jim Crow, and slavery are distant memories to most people and it’s hard for them to understand why these events are still relevant to our lives. To make these events relevant, we have to make them personal by using stories.
A Father’s Love is Stronger Than Any Obstacle
In a short film by Wells Fargo’s Untold Stories: Our Inspired History, hip-hop artist Talib Kweli tells the story of Henry Butler and Mary Ann Graham. Butler offered Graham, a slave owner, $100 to buy his wife and four children. Typically, slaves sold for around $1800 each, but Graham was so moved by Butler’s earnest devotion to his family that she was compelled to accept his offer. This compassionate act offers a glimpse of humane conduct in an otherwise inhumane time.
As a husband and a father, the notion of having to place a monetary value on my family is sickening. But I can relate to Butler’s wanting to do whatever it took to reunite his family. A father’s love is stronger than any obstacle. If not for this film project, which is part of The Kinsey Collection, a national touring exhibit of authentic and rare art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts that tell the often untold story of African American achievement and contribution, we may have never known about this inspiring story.
Sharing Our Stories
But there are many more stories that need to be told – stories that will inspire, motivate, and show us new possibilities.
These new possibilities led me to seriously research my own family’s history. Over the past few years, I’ve used online tools, oral histories, and personal artifacts to craft stories about my grandfather’s being a journalist for the Army in World War II and my great-grandfather’s daring escape from a lynch mob. I hope to create a huge archive to preserve our family’s stories.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to share my passion for African-American culture with my children. Although they don’t share my love for Coltrane, I may be able to convince them to listen to a Talib Kweli song.
Join the conversation: Do you have an untold story that you would like to share?
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Wells Fargo (#KinseyUntold). As always, thank you for visiting Mocha Dad and supporting our sponsors.