The veracity of black history manifested itself in my life when my family and I left metropolitan America and moved to the Deep South - Fayetteville, North Carolina. The elementary school that I would attend did not overlook busy city blocks, but rather it abutted an extensive cotton field, once populated by slaves. I moved into a house that was on this field. I felt like I was living among ghosts.
As a young boy at the time, I came to understand the lines that travel through race and class in this country. Suddenly, I felt as though Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were no longer figures of the past, but very real people I would began to feel connected to. Going into young adulthood, it would be the tales of their lives, and countless other civil rights activists, that would help me navigate this new terrain.
I would soon be launched into a call of action. At age 17, I joined the local NAACP youth chapter and I can keenly remember my first protest in high school. Here, I stood shoulder to shoulder with my new brothers and sisters as we led the student march to demand justice for Martin Lee Anderson, a teenager who died while incarcerated in boot camp.
These protests would later lead to the suspension of all juvenile boot-camps in the state of Florida, indicating the inarguable power of protest. That experience, along with my introduction to the South, propelled me into a position as president of the Black Student Union on the campus of a predominantly white university. Through our community outreach and programing, this union was eventually awarded the title of Student Organization of the Year. This would be the first time a group like ours – a race oriented one – would receive this award in this history of the university.
Black History Month is a steady reminder, to me and many others, of the power in solidarity and discovery, even in the face of indifference.
Since 1976, the United States has designated February as Black History Month to honor the often overlooked achievements of black Americans throughout the country’s history. Demos is honoring Black History Month by highlighting reflections from some of our staff. We welcome you to join the conversation by sharing your thoughts with us on social media using #blackhistorymonth.