We celebrate Black History Month to include the often forgotten history of those who came to America in chains to provide free labor to the New World.

People of African descent in America were the only group the law prohibited from education for over 300 years due to placing value only on their labor and not their intellect. However, even with the threat of death and jail, many learned to read and gained survival skills in their new environment.

We celebrate black history to fight against the residue of slavery and oppression that can stymie self-worth and value of our own skin.

The Emancipation Proclamation provided a document that declared slaves free, and yet the psychological chains and emotional damage carried through generations due to Jim Crow laws that found a new way to shackle the American man with the darkest hue.

As I get older, the pain of racism gets harder to ignore and shake. As I research in Galveston County the lack of minority homeownership’s and local banks that refuse to use Community Reinvestment Act monies to improve communities or lend to persons in that community, the effects of racism get harder to shake.

Or when I see the lack of counseling or resources for over 3,500 persons, mainly African-American families displaced by gentrification between 2004-2012, and yet very few stand to give this group an equitable voice.

Or when the research shows that very few city governments have African-American prime contracts even when federal funds are tied to those business ventures or disaster relief.

Or when I look at the data of disproportionate numbers of black and brown children in the county juvenile justice centers, over policing of African-American males and placement in discipline-based alternative schools. The chains are still rattling.

We celebrate black history because it’s American history. And though not included enough in our history books — it still must be taught. We’re more than slaves, enslaved workers or a glamorized stereotype in a “gangsta” rap video.

However, if we don’t intentionally strive to learn the value of all Americans, we will live in a virtual reality of negative stereotypes that will push us into the corners of isolation leaving us open to the threat of foreign nations and domestic terrorists who play on our fears and laugh at our tears.

We celebrate because of the 400 years where Africans were stripped of their humanity and bred like dogs so America could become a wealthy nation due to our free labor source in which we didn’t personally profit. The wails of ancient slave mothers passed on merge with the howls of the mothers today who have lost sons and daughters to a quick police trigger, absent mental health facilities and an American prison system who some argue is the new slave state. The chains are still rattling.

And yet and still, black history must be celebrated to provide hope to a new generation who must learn how to shake off racism and gain new survival tactics, and manage somehow to keep going forward. The chains are still rattling. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Kimberley N. Yancy is President of NAACP Unit 6280.

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(7) comments

Bailey Jones

Not only where many blacks not allowed to be educated, until the 14th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War, blacks were not even allowed to be people, only property, not allowed to be citizens of this country. Black history is American history, there is no America without the contributions of African Americans. There would have been no sugar cane industry, no cotton economy, no southern aristocracy, no northern industrialization, no gospel, no rock and roll, no rap or hip hop, no Langston Hughes, no Maya Angelou, and don't get me started on food. African Americans are the voice and soul and rhyme and rhythm of America. And the history of black Americans is the history of white Americans - slavery on a scale never before seen in the world, anti-miscegenation laws, Jim Crow, sundown towns, red lines, green books, the KKK, lynchings, bombings, "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever". Black history is a part of all of us, the very, very good, and the very, very, bad. I hope that we can take the time, for at least one month a year, to open our hearts and minds to all that has come before, to put an end to the bad and keep working towards the good.

Danna Kubacak

Very well documented and written.

George Croix

"The chains are still rattling."

Rusty Schroeder

Bailey, and Emile when he comes out from his side of the rock, are NBA and NFL players "slaves" to their white owners in both your opinion? Serious question.

Bailey Jones

I'm not really a sports guy, I would characterize them as talented athletes paid to entertain on a public stage, not unlike actors or musicians. I wouldn't ever put "slaves" in quotes. (Except just then.)

Rusty Schroeder

I asks because I have heard them mention themselves that way in collective bargaining agreements. I put slaves in quotes because they referred to themselves as such, I consider them employees paid a very high salary by their employers.

Bailey Jones

I can see why they might feel like less than equal partners in their contract negotiations. Players are the only reason the owners are getting paid, yet owners make between 10X and 250X what the average player gets (NFL). And the players are mostly black, the owners mostly white, and many have a history of overt racism. And many players live with, and die from, the effects of brain trauma from "taking one for the team, and so literally play themselves to death. But they do average $2 million a year, so there's that. But it's not slavery unless you're forced to do it against your will.

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