By: Lou Yeboah
I am a Harriet Tubman, a Sojourner Truth, a Fannie Lou Hamer, a Rosa Parks, a Zora Neale Hurston, a Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a Maya Angelou, a Mary McLeod Bethune, a Elma Lewis, a Wangari Muta Maathai, a Meta Warrick Fuller, a Dr. Jane Cooke Wright, a Septima Poinsette Clark, a Madame C.J. Walker, a Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Bessie Coleman, a Deratu Tulu, a Zora Neale Hurston, a Charlotte E. Ray, a Maritza Correia, a Mary Church Terrell, a Coretta Scott King, a Flo Kennedy, a Katherine Johnson, a Gwendolyn Brooks, a Mary Mahoney, a Octavia E. Butler, a Shirley Chisholmand, a Tegla Laroupe, and a Josephine Baker. Oh, Yes I am!
I am a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Malcolm X, a Frederick Douglass, a Nelson Mandela, a Booker T. Washington, a W.E.B. DuBois, a Benjamin Banneker, a Louis Armstrong, a Duke Ellington, a Paul Robeson, a Jackie Robinson, a Howard Thurman, a Langston Hughes, a Ralph Ellison, a Richard Wright, a James Baldwin, a Kofi Annan, a Romare Bearden, a Imhotep, a Bob Moses, a Desmond Tutu, a Toussaint Louverture, a Lewis Latimer, a Joe Louis, a Muhammad Ali, a Hank Aaron, and a Jesse Owens. Oh, Yes I am!
What makes me all of them: We are all co-heirs with Jesus, sons and daughters of the promise given to our father Abraham. And, because, “I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart.” [African proverb] [Mary McLeod Bethune].
No matter who we are, where we live, or what our goals may be, we all have one thing in common: a heritage. That is, a social and spiritual legacy passed on from one generation to another. Every one of us is passed a heritage, lives out a heritage, and gives a heritage to our family. Consider our LEGACY and the legacy of others. What do we leave behind? And what do we do with what is left to us? What impact will our life have on those around us? What will your legacy be? Our legacy be?
As we celebrate our history let it remind us that empowered by God as they were, we can continue their work and likewise pass down legacies of strength, perseverance, faith, and victory to future generations. When I think about my ancestors, and when I think about how they lived their lives and followed God. They continue to impact my life as a heritage of faith that is worth following. For God has established his testimony in Jacob, he’s established his Law, his Word in Israel, and it’s each generation’s job to make sure the next generation gets it, that they would know God, that they would put their hope in God, and learn how to walk with God. That’s each generation’s responsibility toward the next.
In concluding, as Joshua Pawelek, a Unitarian Universalist minister, wrote: I believe it is a sign of spiritual health when we practice remembering and honoring those upon whose shoulders we rest. I believe it is a path to spiritual wisdom when we seek to know our ancestors’ stories. What obstacles did they face? If they were enslaved, how did they achieve liberation? If they wandered in the wilderness, how did they survive? What was their relationship to the Most Holy? For what were they thankful? What did they pass on to us? As we know more clearly who our ancestors were, we know more clearly who we are. May we remember and honor the ancestors, whether those we were born into or those in which we were adopted, and to all those who gifted us with something of value.
“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise.”
[Maya Angelou, from “Still I Rise”]