Volume 90, Issue 79

Thursday, February 13, 1997



Giving the silenced a voice: re-righting world history

By Julie Young-Marcellin
President of Black Students' Association

Professor Esmeralda Thornhill, of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, asks us to imagine we are all about to write the history of the world. Each and every one of us has something important to say and to contribute. We all come together as a diverse nation to sign a contract agreeing to certain conditions – no one voice will be heard louder than any of the others and all contributions will be recognized because every group has had a period of greatness.

Everyone writes their story with anticipation of the final copy – we instinctively rush to open the book of the world's history to the table of contents looking for the chapter on our own nation. Most of us then rush to that section and begin reading with excitement. Black people do the same but there's a difference. They cannot find themselves listed in the table of contents or even the index. They flip through each chapter, page by page, searching for any mention of their contributions to world history. Remember, they agreed to a contract like everyone else. No voice would be heard louder, no group would be left out. They realize the contract has been broken and any mention of themselves has been left only to footnotes.

What are they to do now? The book of the world's history has already been written and copyrighted. This is where we are today.

This is why Black History Month is so important. We celebrate it in recognition of all the greatness of our ancestors. This is not a month of exclusion or a time to suggest superiority. Rather, it is a time to say we have contributed, we have been creators, inventors and builders.

We come together to acknowledge the millions upon millions of lives that were lost during the Atlantic passage to slavery, including the millions of lives lost during slavery. To forget these spirits is to leave the spirit of our ancestors unrested at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. We come together to recognize our existence before slavery. It seems that we've only been acknowledged after becoming useful to those who have enslaved us. However, in Central America there are stone statues raised in glorification of the greatness of black people. Historically, these black figures were worshipped as gods – they were the ancient version of astronomers. They came before Columbus.

I could continue but the entire history of black people cannot be told in five minutes or in a month for that matter.

Let it be known that black people do not wish to have only a month. We desire to have the book. We desire to have the history of the world rewritten to include not just black people, but to include the contributions of black people, native people, women and all groups that have been historically excluded. Until this task is accomplished, we must celebrate this globally-recognized time as Black History Month. We must glorify the greatness of those who came before us. We must claim our space. Do not let the spirit of resistance within us die until each and every voice can be heard. We must lift every voice.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997