Know your story
KNOW YOUR STORY
Our congregation has sponsored four mission trips to Ghana. In 2017 as a part of my sabbatical, my family traveled to Ghana in an effort to be more aware of our history and story. Inherent in the trip was the significance of knowing the story of our familial history.
Every people have a story. Every person has a place of origin, where family originated, how we arrived to our final destination. What was involved in that journey? There are various groups of people who know their story, their history better than others. We ought to learn from those groups.
When people know their story, three things happen.
- No one can Devalue your being
- No one can Dismiss your significance
- No one can Degrade your integrity
Many years ago, European historians made people of color believe that we were inferior solely based on our continent of origin. We were taught that Africa is the “dark continent.” Explorer, Henry M. Stanley, coined the phrase in his book, Through the Dark Continent, published in 1878. The title and content of the book insinuated that Africa was a mysterious continent, a continent relatively unknown to Europeans. When speaking of Africa, historians used negative images that even made most of us believe that Africa was filled with savages, uncivilized, unintelligent people. Their goal was to devalue Africans.
Institutionalized enslavement took more than 12.5 million Africans to the new world as enslaved people. Their heritage was dismissed as being unimportant. Their humanity was stripped and branded with different names, European names. A brand of Christianity was introduced to them that made Jesus appear to be a “choir boy/girl” instead of the One “preaching the gospel to the poor; healing to the brokenhearted; liberating the captives; recovering of sight to the blind; liberating the oppressed; and proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4.18-19).”
There was a degrading of our integrity. We were viewed as not being able to contribute anything significant to humanity. Yet, our ancestors were used to build the infrastructure of a burgeoning new world, planting and harvesting crops, nursing the children of our enslavers while not neglecting our own.
We celebrate all that we have experienced in this nation. We claim it as our own because we have earned the right to be Americans. We, too, are “We the people!” Without us there would be no United States of America. Amen.