Article by Precious Ukoh
As the title suggests, a few years may have passed but you will still be known by your past actions.
Earlier this week, I came across someone I had known when I was in my teens. He was a teacher in my high school and a teacher who we all knew to be flirtatious with the young students. So, it’s been 9 years since I last saw him but upon seeing him this week all I could remember about him was: “that flirtatious music teacher”, and I kept looking out to see if he was still like that. I know you’re wondering how this relates to black history month, as its customary to look at our black heroes and heroines who fought for us and paved the way for our freedom. My story reminds me of how the actions of our heroes and heroines are still remembered and will never be forgotten from generation to generation.
I just want to use this medium to highlight some of my favourites and how they have impacted me.
Born 4th April 1928, she is an amazing poet well known for the poem STILL I RISE and her autobiography detailing her early years, I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. Her poem still I rise was written in 1978 and it has been celebrated all over the world. The poem reminds me of my inner strength to fight through challenges. It focuses on the ability to rise above difficulty and discouragement, this was written during the era of severe racism and gender inequality. She speaks for our race and her gender in many of the poems, and again emphasizes the strength and resiliency of our community.
My all-time favourite. She was born into slavery but didn’t let that determine who she was. When she escaped slavery, she made it her mission to free others as well. She was an activist and abolitionist. She was willing to sacrifice her life for the freedom of others. She taught me to stand for what I believe in even though I might be the only one in the room. She taught me to be fearless.
Most of us know her as the woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus. She was confronted by racism very early as she attended a segregated school and was forced to walk to it, while white students were driven to their school on a bus. Sometime in 1900, a law was passed which segregated bus passengers by race. There was a white section (the first four rows) and a coloured section, designated by a sign which could be move forward or backward by the bus driver, depending on how many whites were riding at that moment. In the event that enough white people were on the bus that the white section was full, the driver would move the sign back a few rows and demand that the Blacks exit those sits and either move to seats in the back of the bus, stand during the ride or simply get off of the bus in order to accommodate the white passengers. This was contrary to the official ordinance which did not require anyone to give up their seat but over the years it became an unwritten rule carried out by the drivers. Additionally, if the white section was full, Blacks were required to pay at the front of the bus, but then to exit and go around to the rear door to re-enter the bus. Black passengers had complained for years about these practices, but to no avail. She was found guilty of disorderly conduct and was fined though she sat in the coloured section.
As we celebrate these heroines, the desire is for this period to ignite in us the desire to stand for what we believe in and fight for what is right. It’s also for us to know that we will be remembered for our actions. They fought for us to enjoy the freedom we have, what cause are you fighting for so your children can enjoy a better tomorrow? #BHM