As we enter the month of February, we plan great events in recognition of Black History Month. We celebrate leaders of the past from Frederick Douglas, to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Rosa Parks, to Fannie Lou Hamer, to Senator Avon Williams Jr., to Sen. Thelma Harper, to Mrs. Rosetta Miller Perry, to Mrs. Curley McGruder and Rev. Marilyn Ramsey. We hold in high esteem their fierce leadership and delight in the ways they were powerful, strong, unbridled, unrestrained and robust. These individuals and many more, were willing to come out from behind themselves into the conversation and make it real.
The qualities these leaders and others were able to exert revealed they were willing to interrogate reality. Provoke learning. Tackle tough challenges. Enrich relationships, as described in the book Fierce Conversations. We honor them, we recognize them and we celebrate them, not only for their accomplishments but their willingness to stand firm on issues unpopular and among people who wanted to silence their voices. Yet, they persevered.
They were not weak leaders, who just wanted agreement. They were strong leaders who sought and fought for the Truth. From a section in Fierce Conversations, the author describes what true leader’s experience. “They tell the truth as they understand it and encourage those they lead to tell them the whole truth, paint the whole picture, even if its’ ugly, unpleasant, not what we wish it to be. Because only then, we can put our best efforts forward to fix what needs fixing.”
These are qualities in great people like Preston Taylor, James C. Napier, and John Henry Hale. They displayed strength for all of us to model. They were Americans, regardless of race and should be recognized every day in every way. While public housing has been named for some of these individuals, it is incumbent on us to teach and guide the residents and community to know these brick & mortar units, should not be violated and reduced to areas of despair, but truly become a ray of hope, because of their namesakes. They mean something. They represent individuals who stood for the people.
While we cannot draft legislation that dictates love, charity, respect, scrupulousness, honor and uprightness, we can demonstrate behavior that will inform legislation that can impact our lives positively. We can be civil and learn to listen and not just talk to, talk through or talk at, as the youth say.
In that February is the shortest month of the year, it still allows us plenty of opportunities to pause for the causes of humanity. It is the month we celebrate love with Valentine’s Day, and more celebrations with Groundhog Day, President’s Day, and of course the entire month is focused on recognizing Black History. This month is one of those times to serve as a springboard to focus on celebrating the strength of others, and learning to be strengthened ourselves to do great things, for such a time as this.
Pastor Howard E. Jones, Jr.., is the Senior Pastor of Fairfield M. B. Church in Goodlettsville and assistant principal at J. F. Kennedy Middle School, a part of the MNPS system. He is a candidate for TN State Senate, District 19.