• Shades of Color

The Best History Is Your Own

Updated: May 23, 2019

Today would have been my grandmother’s 86th birthday.  “Gran” as she liked to be called.  She only lived to see 78 of them, but she lived her life to the fullest, hopefully with few regrets. She is the only one of my grandparents born in February. She is almost the only family member born this month really, which got me to thinking about “Black History.” 


Many of us think about Black History all year long; here we post Black History facts on Facebook all the time, and of course, the wall calendars all have Black History facts sprinkled throughout the year as well as some of the weekly planners. We don’t take for granted the importance of celebrating the achievements, the sacrifices, the struggles and the joys of those who paved the way before us. 


We celebrate the current trailblazers too, the living legends, that teach us that breaking the mold does not have to be saved for previous generations.  Even though a myriad of barriers have been broken to allow many advances in our lives, it’s not lost on us that is equally hard for the Serena Williamses, the Colin Kaepernicks, the Ayanna Presleys, the Viola Davises  and the Shonda Rhimeses to continue to have their voices heard and fight for a seat at the table.


As a country we annually come together to honor Black Culture for 28 straight days. Programming will feature a few classics on the struggle, maybe a few that aren’t quite so heavy but still land in the “Must See” column.  Communities will host performances and screenings and festivals.  Libraries will have book recommendations and maybe offer a discussion or two.  My Facebook feed is extra loaded with fun facts these few weeks. 


Somethings you know, somethings you are surprised you never heard of.  I even saw an extended end-cap in Target promoting African American vendors with a dozen or so products celebrating Black culture (yep, even Girl Trip made it up in the display, y’all).  All of this is needed and appreciated and celebrated.  We as a community can acknowledge Black History, but it means something for society as well to not only embrace it but to participate in it too.  For Black History, is of course, Our History.




Now and Forever by Poncho Brown

I encourage you to go a step further this year, a step closer to your roots.  By all means please engage in all of the resources available, but sometimes the best look at Black History is to look within  your family to your own history.  How many of us really know the experiences of our parents, our aunts and uncles, and for those lucky enough to still have them with us our grandparents?


Each member of our families is rich in a story that is uniquely all their own.  Older family members have an extra layer of a time that maybe you cannot fully relate to that further enhances their narrative.  What were the different jobs they have had in their lives?  What kind of music did they listen to? Do they have any stories about their schoolyard days they can remember? 


It can be a challenge depending on the person and their capacity to recoup these hidden gems, but you never know what a little bit of probing may unearth.  You will learn more about someone who has contributed to who you are, and they just may enjoy going back in time, that time, when life’s context was just a little bit different.



Yellow Dress by Frank Morrison

We video taped my Gran once.  Asked her these very questions about her life. I have not revisited it in a while, but days like today I am glad that we at least had the conversation.  I know where she worked and a few anecdotes about life in Boston and her migration to California.  Her hobbies. Her favorite color. 


On days like this I just wish I had time to ask a little bit more.

DNA searches tell us one thing.  But what of the personal DNA – the personalities, the experiences, the chapters that you have never read about your own immediate family?

We are because of them.  How much can you engage with your family to discover what makes you who you are today??


~J. Robinson

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