By Mary E. Farris

Many people ask why we celebrate Black History Month. Some suggest that those terrible times should just be forgotten.

I understand why it would be easier for people to pretend that black people had not been treated worse than animals. Black history reveals the race reality of a most demoralizing experience. Many men, women and children suffered, especially the black man. His pride and spirit were crushed, but many excelled despite their oppression.

Black people weren’t allowed to get an education, but some still found a way to learn to read and write. They became famous and highly educated. They were determined to survive the inhumane treatment. It was also evident that black people could be doctors, lawyers, inventors, preachers and teachers, among many other attributes.

Our history proves that we see more than something to be used. We are people with a heart, mind and soul. We are capable of attaining knowledge, making decisions and showing love for other people. We are human beings, created by the same creator.

My great-grandmother was a slave. Her daughter, my grandmother, was the child of a slave. Neither one of them could read or write. My mama could not read or write.

The landowner who owned the farm where they lived ordered my grandparents to put all their children out in the fields to work. I taught mama how to print her name. Some things I saw when I was a little girl made me cry.

That’s why I believe that all people should know about everything that happened then, so it will never happen again.

Black people were not allowed to vote. They weren’t allowed in some stores. They couldn’t try on shoes or clothes. Many black people died for the freedom we have today.

I am a proud black American, a senior lady who is thankful for the prayers and sacrifices of my ancestors. There is still more work to be done, but I believe that the Rev. Martin Luther King’s dream will one day come true.

I encourage all people to join in a Black history church service, watch a movie or documentary on the subject. Then it will be understood why the history of such hurting times is important. I wasn’t a slave, but the Jim Crow experience wasn’t far from it. I remember having to sit in the back of the bus or stand. I remember having to order food at the back door of a business place.

Black history reminds us that we are a blessed people despite the struggles that still exist. It is also a lesson for all people. It is better to show love than hate. Added to other sources of learning will open up a well of understanding. I pray that God will touch every heart.

The writer lives in Martinsville.

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