These are all sayings and phrases I’ve heard throughout my life. I didn’t learn them in English class. I didn’t learn them from reading classic literature, either. I learned this vernacular from my family, in the comfort of my own home.
To many, these phrases sound foreign or don’t make sense. They aren’t in Webster’s Dictionary, probably can’t be found in any public school textbook and weren’t written by Shakespeare, Mark Twain or Edgar Allen Poe. But, despite a lack of formal acknowledgement of this black vernacular by the status quo, I know what these sayings mean, can use them in a sentence and everything else. And I do so – proudly.
My parents were raised knowing this vernacular, and so were their parents, and so were my great grandparents – and so on and so forth. It’s part of my blood and therefore, it’s part of my history. My grandparents, great grandparents and other ancestors may not be honored in black history month specials on TV. Their lives may not be portrayed in schoolhouse plays, either. But regardless of any of that, it’s still part of my history. It still has value and valor.
In our daily lives, when we speak the words of the ones before us, we are remembering them. We are acknowledging the lives they led and the circumstances surrounding their language. Ultimately, we’re carrying on their legacy — not just in February, but each & every day.
It’s Black History Month, and I’ve decided to share some ways our history and our heritage have been instilled in my life — not only in February, but all year long.
My folks bought me Afro-Bets’ Book of Black Heroes From A to Z by Wade Hudsona long, long, lonnng time ago when I was a little girl. I have been in love with this book since my first time reading it. The life of a black leader is highlighted for each letter of the alphabet in easy-to-read language suitable for children. A cast of young black kids pop up throughout the book, shaping themselves to spell the last names of each leader.
Although this book may be a little dated, it doesn’t take away from the power in arming our children with knowledge about the ones who came before them. Every year of elementary school, I brought this book into my class to share and every year, my teachers asked to borrow it for their lessons. As a little girl, I felt so proud to be able to contribute to what my classmates and I learned…and I felt even more proud to see people in books doing great things that looked like me.
Don’t leave the babies out of black history. Introduce them to books and introduce them to love.