What person from Black History gets overlooked and deserves more attention?
Dyits Vance: “In my community [Batesville, Miss.], I would say it was Brother Robert Myles. He is the one that got us involved in the movement and to help us vote. He took care of some of the Civil Rights workers that were there, and he traveled with them. He marched to Alabama and was there when they shot teargas on them, and he was arrested in Jackson [Miss.]. He was with Dr. King, and we got the vote now in Batesville. We are registered and so forth, and now our children got better jobs, our folks got better jobs. When one of my daughters graduated in computer science, we went from Batesville to Memphis and couldn’t get a job nowhere. So she came to Chicago. That is why she moved here. Civil Rights people like Fannie Lou Hamer?”Brother Myles was with her?”she never came to our town. But some of the other Civil Rights workers came. Many black residents who gave them lodging lost their jobs. Brother Myles, they burned crosses and shot into his house. Although Brother Myles passed away about five years ago, I certainly think he deserves attention.”
(Mrs. Vance is here visiting her daughters from Batesville, Miss., an area of Mississippi where she has witnessed many injustices and participated in the Civil Rights Movement.)
Stephanie Bird: “First I will say is Horace Pippin. Horace was an East coast artist. He’s one of few artists from the 1800s and early 1900s who is in a few museum collections. But he recorded early black life, how we used to live right after slavery. He was a real beautiful artist.
“The other person is Judith Jamison the dancer because movement is such an expression?”it is healing. It is some of the ways the people in Africa use to heal themselves or still do?”like through movement and art. So this is where I’m coming from. I get really upset with even the term ‘slavery.’ I prefer ‘enslavement’ because slavery kind of deems us still as a certain kind of human being?”as a slave. But they were Africans who were enslaved by other people. So I would rather see a little less emphasis on making young people feel ‘OK, I was a slave, and now here I am.’ We have a wonderful rich history, and that is a lot of what my work is about?”seeing what is going on in the Caribbean, Africa and the United States with our people who are overlooked. So I try to tell our health stories, our art stories, that’s what I do.”
(Stephanie Bird is the author of Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones. Stephanie was inspired to write this book because “I’m real involved with herbs myself. I’ve always been influenced and excited by stories about my mother’s mother who was a healer.”)
Olivia Bird: “I would like to see more attention paid to E.D. Nixon. He was an organizer in Montgomery, Ala. who was responsible for getting Dr. King involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.”
Henry Oaks: “I feel that Harriet Tubman has been overlooked. She was a prophet. It was she who had to stand the black man up and put a gun to his head and say, ‘Negro, if you don’t help me free these slaves, you’re going to be the first casualty.’ So I think a lot of black women have been overlooked, but she is one who comes to mind automatically.”
Nzingha Amma Nommo: “Marcus Garvey is the great Pan-American hero. So many came from his genius, his leadership, his direction. To have chartered ships that he owned with The United Negro Improvement Association around the Caribbean in his time was phenomenal?”for any man let alone a black man. His words ring true today. Bob Marley, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhummad?”you name them?”have sprung from his genius. He should be required reading for every black person around the world. His book Message to the People is one of his greatest offspring. It’s a guidebook on how to survive in this racist system. I highly recommend all of his books and for people to research further his impact on the world.”
Maria Spears: “I flashed on Fred Hampton because he was such a person who realized early on what he wanted. There was a spark that became a flame and eventually became a torch for many, many black people. This was a person who made many sacrifices for what he believed in. And I think that is admirable because so many of us, as individuals or in groups, may have our eyes on a goal, though we’re not willing to take the ultimate step to make the sacrifice to even realize a part of what that dream might be. So I think for me, Fred Hampton would be someone who needs to be recognized. Our younger brothers and sisters and children have no idea of the trials and tribulations this man went through.”
Sandra Braine: “Harriet Tubman?”I think we need to talk more about her. There is a very famous postcard of her and an elderly black gentleman and then a younger, lighter-skinned young girl, which I’m sure had some attachment. Harriet wasn’t known for being beautiful, but she was an absolutely incredible figure and very, very brave, and I think more little girls need to hear about her.”
Gerri Brown/Anwar Brown: Anwar, speaking for himself and his mother, said, “I would like to see more about our first black mayor in Chicago, Harold Washington because he’s not recognized like Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, etc. Mayor Washington seems to be overlooked and to become the first black mayor in Chicago was definitely a historical event. Given Chicago’s reputation on race relations, this historic event should be talked about more and taught in our schools.
(Note: Gerri Brown is a longtime Westsider and worked many years at General Foods Corporation’s West Side location on Fillmore Street.)