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NEW YORK NEW YORK: Black History Month perfect time to reflect


Tony Best

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Black History Month perfect time to reflect

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The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr said it best: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
That battle cry for positive change underscores the value of vigilance and determination in these crucial times of economic and social difficulties.
Consider the following.
A mere four years ago this month, a period when America was observing Black History Month, a highly intelligent and sensitive junior United States senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was battling his way to the nomination as the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer in the United States presidential sweepstakes.
People in and out of the country, Bajans included, were debating if Americans could bring themselves to elect their first black occupant of the White House in Washington. They did.
Now, as the United States celebrates once again the achievements of Blacks and reflects on the dramatic changes since Dr King’s death, the country is engaged in a different fight. It’s one to ensure that President Obama serves another four years.
It’s a contest which must not be lost.
Like millions of Blacks before him, the president has had to endure the slings and arrows of those who would have us believe that Blacks are less capable or lack the intestinal fortitude needed to transform their lives and prepare the country for a better future. Obama has shattered that fallacy.
Here’s another example of the twists and turns of history. Consider what happened nearly 30 years after slavery was abolished in the United States in the second half of the 19th century.
The existence of the forced labour system put black men in a situation where they were arrested, usually on trumped-up charges, and made to work without being paid as prisoners. It was a convict-leasing system that made black male prisoners the responsibility of private parties such as plantation owners and the executives of corporations.
Back then, the United States Justice Department, often called the world’s largest law firm, routinely declined to enforce the law against involuntary servitude. Today, that Justice Department is headed by a black United States attorney-general with strong Barbadian roots.
Eric Holder Jr, a former Washington, DC judge who served as deputy United States attorney general during Bill Clinton’s presidential term, is married to Dr Sharon Malone. In a PBS documentary Slavery By Another Name, which is to be shown across the United States on Monday evening and is available in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean, she speaks about that awful chapter in American history which many modern-day historians don’t know existed.
It took the eye-opening book of Douglas Blackmon, (PBS and Black History Month) to expose this sordid tale. It reinforces the need for people everywhere to do two things. The first is to discard the notion of inevitability in patterns of human conduct. Secondly, we should know our history.
If Blacks had embraced the fallacy of inevitability and hadn’t fought hard to climb the economic and social ladder, Obama wouldn’t be president; Holder, the son of Bajans, wouldn’t be AG; Massachusetts wouldn’t have a black governor; and Colin Powell, the son of Jamaican parents, would not have been secretary of state.

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