Who are we, American victims or heroes? Lately I find it difficult, even painful to watch the news as a select few dismantle our core foundation as Americans. America’s compassion, our openness to embrace different cultures and religions and provide care for those less fortunate as a hand up with the joy in knowing if we help one another we will all succeed is what this country is built on. When we dismantle food programs for those who need food, medical care for those who are sick, and the arts that inspire us to understand ourselves, we will decline as our country as we have never done before. We need to have learned from our history that slavery is not acceptable, and modern day slavery to greed for only a few people is also not acceptable.
Sometimes I find myself getting discouraged by the lack of interest and responsibility we have to preserve and support our albeit imperfect yet extraordinary national cultural arts heritage & music. I have asked myself this question a million times: What can I do or what can I say that will loose the chains of bondage we are still in today that keeps us from knowing our awe inspiring African American slave brothers & sisters who endured slavery in this country creating an original music in spite of there circumstances. Why don’t we as a nation focus on our accomplishments and contributions of all the cultures that make up our citizenry?
Thankfully yesterday, as my despair reached a low point, and as luck would have it, I found a letter of support on my desk from Dr. Dorothy Height, one of America’s greatest Civil Rights leaders, that she had written to me in 2005. Reading this letter again reminded me there is no room for despair only room for determination to keep going… and as an old spiritual states: “Ain’t nobody gonna turn me around, marching into freedoms land”.
Here is a quote from her letter about my work to expose the beauty, fortitude, and accomplishments of our slave brothers and sisters in American history in spite of their enslavement. This is what she said to me:
“The continuing legacy of those historic songs helped bind us together, gave us courage and helped us march together during the Civil Rights Movement. I believe as you do that this is historical and cultural information which should be preserved. Since it is not, you are performing an essential public service and for this you should be commended. Your talents have brought exposure and life to America’s first true art form. It is our social responsibility to preserve the culture that our forefathers died for.
Know that you are an important educational resource. Keep up the good work.”
— Dorothy I. Height
Chair & President Emerita
National Council of Negro Women, Inc
So today, I am reminded to march on, sing on, and be eternally grateful for the grace and beauty of my ancestors. I am because they were.