JEFF BROOMES: Highlighting some of my black heroes
WHILE WE ENGAGE in our different celebratory activities during the month we refer to as Black History Month, we sometimes become reflective. As I do this, the question that predominates my thoughts is: “Why is there a need to have such a designation?”
It is unfortunate that we as black people have been forced into this situation. It is a result of our having been deprived of our story of success, development and greatness in diverse areas such as creativity, leadership, acute skills, activism and expressive culture.
Today, I will present some of the many outstanding black people who have distinguished themselves in the long hard journey thath as defined our people.
Traditionally, black people have been pigeonholed in areas such as sport and culture. Despite the less than complimentary positioning we have championed those areas and taken them to heights untold.
In the area of music, we can register pioneers such as Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole who led the way that ushered in persons like Miriam Makeeba and Bob Marley who allowed their music to be the voice of activismfor justice and fairness.
On the local, regional and international scene there are giants like Gabby, Jackie Opel and RPB. The Mighty Sparrow, Kitchener, Joan Armatrading and Eddie Grant speak regionally. Internationally, Jimmy Hendrix, Aretha Franklyn, Lucky Dube and Michael Jackson ruled the roost.
The cultural landscape was also well adorned by members of the black race. People like Sidney Poitier and Denzil Washington jump to the fore. Josephine Baker danced her way into our hearts. We stood in awe of the angelic Leontyne Price as we did with Maya Angelou,a goddess to me. Chinua Achebe gave a picture of our cultureand traditions.
The sports field has been replete with black excellence. We can speak about Sir Garfield Sobers, the greatest of them all and local hero Venice Richards. The exploits of Usain Bolt, Jesse Owens, Pele, Jack Johnson and Michael Jordan command attention.
We can also add Grace Jackson, Wilma Rudolph, Yvonne Goolagong and Shelly Ann Fraser-Price. These all, through their performances helped to redefine their respective disciplines.
Social activists are only recognised for their importance after the moment, but they have consistently driven progress, respect and development. Hence, we should be proud of Errol Barrow, Nelson Mandela, Bussa and Marcus Garvey.
Eugenia Charles can walk with them all, and so can Frederic Douglas, Rosa Parks, Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman. What contributions! On a personal note, I marvel at the work of Jomo Kenyatta, Kofi Annan and Thurgood Marshall, the outstanding American jurist.
I have some very strong personal values and, as such, Okonkwo stands tall for me. He gave up his life rather than turn his back on who and what defined him. He stands as an example of black strength and pride to me. My hero!
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]