# 12 WHY I THINK IT IS VITAL FOR THE BLACK COMMUNITY TO LEARN ABOUT ITS HERITAGE
by Vernon M. Herron
Heritage is equated with culture and history. For the sake of this writing, I define culture as customary beliefs, social forms, behavioral patterns and material traits of a racial, religious or social group and transmitted to succeeding generations. History, then is a chronological record of past events which influence the present.
African Americans are endowed with a heritage, molded with diverse experiences from the mother land- the cradle of civilization- to this day of ‘shinning stars’ in America. In fact, the heritage of African Americans has evolved through five periods of history which has molded the ‘Black Experience’ depending on knowledge, attitude and disposition. Those periods are significant as experienced:
• On the continent of Africa
• In America during slavery
• After emancipation in 1865
• During the Civil Rights years
• During the period of integration
Let us all be reminded that a study of 13th century Africa reveals a noble heritage consisting of Empires, a mastery of waterways, advancement in architecture and technology, noted universities, professors, doctors, Kings, Queens, skilled draughtsmen , experts in geometry, grounded in arithmetic, musicians, philosophers, medicine and legal matters. What a heritage?
Such a civilization was disrupted with European commando raids. Through force, many Africans were captured and sold into slavery at trading posts and transported to a new world through the middle passage. The end result was a disruption of a noble civilization, of family life and an uprooted ness from a homeland.
The ‘black experience’ in America during the enslaved period included a plantation life of forced labor. In 1859, Justice Tanner in the Dred Scott decision, declared the African Americans to be 3/5 of a man or a non person, if you please. With the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the 13th amendment, African Americans were legally free only. The ‘black code’ and other tactics were created for the continued denial of personhood. This bleak period is an integral part of African Americans’ heritage and must be known.
The Civil Rights Movement includes the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment which guaranteed citizenship rights and the Fifteenth Amendment which barred voting rights restriction based on race. Yes, the 13th amendment freed Blacks, the 14th made them citizens and the 15th gave them the right to vote. Many vigilante groups sought to drive Blacks from the political life through acts of terror and intimidation. State governments enacted laws which restricted suffrage in the South. The Civil Rights Era was created to secure the benefits of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.
Jim Crow served to remind African Americans that they were second-class citizens. But the 1954 Supreme Court decision in the Brown vs Board of Education case overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine. This decision, according to The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, provided the legal basis for the protesting and the challenging years in which Blacks gained excess to the political process, the educational system, health issues and basic human services.
This is my noble history and heritage. It bears repeating. This saga has spanned some eight curies from Black Nobility of the 13 century Africa to today’s reality in which approximately 10,000 African Americans hold elected offices in the United States. Without knowledge and memory of the past, one lives unconnected to the present and future.
For years, the media has distorted the culture of African Americans as grinning, shiftless buffoons. Alex Haley, very well states the results as Blacks “have tended variously to manifest shame of their heritage and hence of their contemporary selves.” These images we must struggle to disperse.
Having experienced an uprootedness from the homeland; a denial of personhood; and a rejection of personal freedom, the Black community must reconnect to its noble heritage. It offers HOPE, POWER AND SELF ESTEEM.
It has been written that “the life style of Blacks and the unmitigated pressures [sought] to destroy our black family during our bondage.”
It is vital for the Black Community to learn about its heritage. Herein lies an unlimited potential and that potential includes me.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
#11 ONE YEAR IN OFFICE AND A LEADER OF THE WORLD
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
On 20 January 2009, the first African American was installed as the 44th President of these United States. It was an extraordinary moment in American political history. God is continuously redeeming America. Many have paved the way for this day.
One day, God reached over into Ohio and picked Carl Stokes of Cleveland to be the first African American Mayor of a major city, but He also picked Douglas Wilder to be the first African American elected Governor of Virginia. God reached up into Massachusetts and picked Edward Brooks and made him the first African American U.S. Black Senator for that state since Reconstruction, and God also reached down into North Carolina and picked Howard Lee to be the first Black Mayor of Chapel Hill.
HALLELUJAH!! Give GOD the glory!! This is a great day and historic time to be alive. WE ALL HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY. We stand on the shoulders of many who suffered physical pain, economic depression, political ostracism and even death so that we might see this day and participate in a new order. Today, in this “OBAMA ERA,’ they speak to us.
OBAMA’S ELECTION IS A CHALLENGE TO THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY.
OUR ELDERS SPEAK
We did not struggle to keep our minds from being shackled
only to have you turn away from learning
and the wise ways of the elders.
We did not endure bondage for you
to become a slave to drugs and alcohol.
We did not die by the millions, for you
to kill one by the thousands.
We did not ward off their insults and claims of our inferiority
for you to hate yourself.
We did not become their human commodity
-their black ivory, their black gold-
for you to put material things over your people,
even your own families and children.
We withstood their slaughterhouse slave ship.
their “seasoning” and “breathing”
for you to walk and live with dignity!
The Great Blacks in Wax Museum
Saturday, January 2, 2010
#10 B E L I E V E IT OR N O T!
Q U E E N C H A R L O T T E
C O U S I N S O P H I A?
(WE BOTH ARE OF AFRICAN DESCENT)
Vernon M. Herron
Believe it or not, it is possible that Queen Charlotte Sophia (1744-1818) and persons of African descent are related.
The vast majority of Black Americans and West Indians are descendants from Africans who lived on the western coast of the continent in the area between the mouth of the Gambia River and the Bight of Biafra. The upper portion of the area was the Songhai Empire (sometimes spelled “Songhay). According to Dr. Edward Robinson, a noted African American historian, it was comprised of ten countries in the sixteenth century. Looking at a modern map of Africa today, one would recognize the Songhai Empire to include portions of Algeria, Mauritania, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Libya and all of Senegal, The Gambia and Mali1.
The Songhai Empire included the University of Sankora at Timbutu. The University of Jenne was in the City of Jenne which was in the country of Mali. It had 1400 professors. In the University cities, there were Schools of Medicine, Math, Architecture, Law, History, Astronomy, Languages, etc. One would see business, commerce, multistoried homes of polished stoner “without cement”. Women were highly respected and held positions of great authority. Indeed, there were sophistication and beauty2.
This is the western part of Africa from which the overwhelming majority of African Americans came. Thus, persons of African descent in North and South America, are children of the Sonhai Empire. Know this and be proud. Karl Ludwig Friedreich (Charles Louis Friedreich ), Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Germany) was Queen Charlotte’s father3 while her mother was an African4. (A notion/fact you will hardly see in print.) Ivan Van Sertima in his book, Black Women in Antiquity, writes the following of Charlotte Sophia. “One of the well-known examples of a member of royalty with blood of Africa coursing in her veins was Queen Charlotte Sophia, Germon-born consort of the English King George III (1760-1820). She had the broad nostrils and heavy lips of the blond Negroid type mentioned by Brunold Springer. This blond Negroid type is not uncommon even in Nordic Europe where intermixing, as mentioned previously, has never been given exposure in the writings of Europeans for obvious racist reasons”5.
Continuing that line of thought, J. A. Rogers in his book, Nature Knows No Color-Line, writes “Siebmacher’s Wappenbuch of eighty-eight volumes, already mentioned, has a great number of Negroes, some of them with crowns and others as cardinals and archbishops. With these Negroes in German nobility, the evident Negro strain in Queen Charlotte Sophia consort of George III of England, who was a German princess, might be explained.”6
A strong notion contends that the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz went to the University of Sankora at Timbutu where he met and married an African woman of the Songhai Empire7. Upon returning to Germany with his African bride, a daughter was born in Mecklenburg-Strelitz named “Charlotte”. At the age of seventeen, Charlotte married King George III, whose reign over Great Britain as King was from 1760-1820. (A period which covered the Revolutionary War in the United States.)
When Charlotte was 17 years old, her country was in the midst of war. The deplorable condition touched Charlotte enough for her to write a letter to Fredrick the Great, King of Prussia, expressing her dismay. It was through this letter that Charlotte became known to King George who was immediately impressed with her intelligence and sensitivity8.
Although George ascended to the throne in October 1760, he refused to be crown until he had a queen. Princess Charlotte was chosen, the wedding between the two was arranged and Charlotte set sail for England. During the trip, Charlotte occupied herself with learning English songs on her harpsichord. She arrived in England on September 8,1761. She and George met at 3 in the afternoon and were married at 9in the evening. The coronation was held on the 22rd of the same month9. She was to bear 15 children for the king10:
George (Later prince Regent and then George IV), 1762
William (Later William IV), 1765
Only Octavius and Alfred succumbed in infancy. Amelia died of consumption in her late twenties. 12 children lived pass the age of 50 and 8 children lived pass the age of 50 and 8 children lived pass the age of 70. Two (2) sons became kings of England, the first son George IV and the third son, William IV. Queen Charlotte was the grandmother of Queen Victoria, the great-great grandmother of George VI and the great-great-great-great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II11.
Queen Charlotte became known for her politeness, charitableness, sensibility and for a sweetness of temper. Graham Weathers, an American sculptor, in his writing on “Queen Charlotte Walks in Her Garden” says, “ she was a small woman ‘easy, genteel and agreeable’…played the harpsichord, learn botany and took pleasure in Kew and Richmond Garden. Her dog, one named Presto, followed her on daily walks. Her appearance and informal apparel are modeled after portraits in English museums. King George III plagued by recurring illness called her ‘my physician, my friend.’ She is remembered as a great benefactor of hospitals.” Banny Burney, court attendant and novelist of the period wrote, “she (Charlotte) is full of sense and graciousness, mingled with delicacy of mind and lividness of temper.” A noblewoman who reported on the Queen’s genteel, with an air notwithstanding her being a little woman, truly majestic.”11
Charlotte, NC and six other cities through the united States were named for the lady, Charlotte Sophia. The city of Charlotte and the county of Mecklenburg both have their origin in the days when America was still a British Colony. Some opportunists in North Carolina, perhaps eager to curry favor with King George III, named their tiny settlement “Charlotte” in honor of his Queen Charlotte Sophia, the former princess of Mecklenburg, Strelitz (Germany). For the same reason they named their county “Mecklenburg”12.
1 Robinson, Battle and Robinson, The Journey of The Songhai People.
(Philadelphia: Farmer Press, 1987), p.83
2 Ibid., p.79.ff
3 Burke’s Royal Families of The World. (Publisher, London: 1977)
4 Ivan Van Sertima, Black Women In Antiquity, (New Brunswick, N. J.:
Transaction Book, Inc. 1988),p.136
6 J. A. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color-Line. (St. Petersburg: Helga M.
Rogers.1980), p. 93.
7 Lecture Dr. Edward Robinson 15 May, 1959 Philadelphia, PA.
8 W. E. Lunt, History of England. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1945
11 Fredrick, George Marcham, A History of England. NewYork: The
MacMillian Company, 1950.
12 Fact Sheet, “A Brief History of The Name Queen Colllege.”
# 9 CARRYING MRS. CORETTA SCOTT KING’S HANDBAG WAS HISTORY
Vernon M. Herron
In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. helped organize protests in Selma, AL. The demonstrators protested against the efforts of white officials there to deny most black citizens the chance to register and vote. Several hundred protesters attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital, but police officers used tear gas and clubs to break up the group. King immediately announced another attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery.
It is at this point that I joined the movement, the likes of which I have not seen since. I took a “leave of absence” from a pastorate in Joliet, Ill. (Second Baptist Church), a wife and three lovely daughters, to join this historic Selma to Montgomery march. After a quick verbally commitment to the non-violent principles and an equally quick bus ride- course in self-preservation, I joined the line of marchers, where hundred of volunteers had laid down their “necks” for the cause of freedom.
Here, literally I was not only a part of a history making process, but now was being used by fate to record a simple act. Marching directly behind Martin and Coretta King, I carried Mrs. King’s handbag so she could be free to hold Martin’s hand if she wished. To relieve her of that task was to free us all to sing the more in gust, “We Shall Overcome.” Carrying Coretta Scott King’s handbag, thirty-four years ago was history in the making. Within a few months, Congress approved the Voting Right Act of 1965.