As a Nigerian immigrant in America, I have always been fascinated and drawn to understanding civil rights and what it means to be black in America. As the saying goes, “Black storytelling is not monolithic… Adedayo Fashanu”.” So, when my partner and I learned that Rev. Al Sharpton was scheduled to speak at the Kingdom Fellowship AME Church (Fastest growing church in America) on a Sunday, we readily decided to forgo our usual place of worship to immerse ourselves in a Sunday of black civil rights and spiritual communion.
…And rightly so, Reverend Al Sharpton sermon was on the importance of civil rights and the need to fight for justice for all people. He spoke about the current state of civil rights in the United States and the efforts underway to roll back progress. He also called for unity among African Americans and other marginalized groups and urged people to remember the lessons of the past and continue the fight for justice. In his speech Rev. Sharpton emphasized the importance of preserving the ancient landmarks, which he interpreted as the values and traditions that have served the black community well for generations. He warned that we are in a time when many of these landmarks are being eroded and that we must be careful not to lose our way in the pursuit of new trends and fashions.
A timely reminder of the importance of preserving our history and culture. We live in a rapidly changing world, and it is easy to get caught up in the latest trends and technologies. However, it is important to remember that our past is what has shaped us into who we are today. The values and traditions that we have inherited from our ancestors have helped us to overcome many challenges, and they continue to be a source of strength and resilience.
The allusion to ancient landmarks, as highlighted by Sharpton, isn’t just about the physical markers; they are the bedrock on which we stand, ensuring that we remain rooted in our identity even as we navigate the often-turbulent waters of progress. It is about the wisdom of the ancestors, the stories of struggle and resilience, and the traditions that imbued communities with a sense of purpose and identity.
While we should wholeheartedly embrace the advancements of our times, it’s crucial, as Sharpton posits, not to become so infatuated with the ‘new’ that we neglect or abandon the core values that shaped our narrative. It is upon these bedrock principles that civil rights movements found their footing and that communities found their voice against oppression.
“…civil rights didn’t write your resume but civil rights made somebody read your resume…”
Reverend Dr. Al Sharpton remembered his response to a conversation with an individual who critiqued the relevance of civil rights.
Citing the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action at Harvard University, the attack on Fearless Fund equity fund, and the changing voting regulations as examples, Sharpton underscores the persistent attempts to roll back hard-won freedoms. Such regressions underline the importance of vigilance and unity, and they underscore the need for communities to remember the foundations upon which they stand. There is an inherent danger in complacency, and the winds of change, if unchecked, can erode the landmarks of our identity and purpose.
they’re changing what they called diversity equity and inclusion Dei; y’all got so caught up in being accepted that you pretended that they wanted you and forgot how you got there in the first place they didn’t invite you in their corporations they didn’t want you on the board we fought we suffered we spent nights in jail and when you got there you turned your back on the folks that brought you there… Reverend Dr. Al Sharpton
Passing on these traditions and stories is not just a nostalgic exercise. It is a tool for empowerment. When the younger generation appreciates the sacrifices of those who came before, it anchors them with a deeper sense of purpose and an understanding of the larger picture. Such a perspective not only roots them in their history but also arms them with the inspiration and knowledge to confront contemporary challenges.
The pivotal role of institutions like the black church can’t be underestimated. These institutions have not just been places of worship but also epicenters of community strength, education, and activism. Supporting and revitalizing these institutions ensures that the lessons of the past remain vibrant and influential in the discourse of the present and the blueprint for the future.
In advocating for the preservation of ancient landmarks, Sharpton is not arguing against change. Rather, he emphasizes a balanced evolution, where the embrace of the new doesn’t eclipse the essence of the old. It’s a delicate equilibrium, maintaining the sanctity of foundational values while navigating the currents of progress.
Sharpton’s sermon serves as a touchstone, reiterating the importance of cultural memory in shaping the future of African-American society. The legacy of civil rights, the power of collective identity, the fortitude borne from faith, and the inspiration drawn from landmarks – all intertwine to create the rich tapestry of African-American heritage.
“landmark direct you to your destination we have confused the landmarks of degrees and money and cars and clothes and hair and nails. we have confused the landmarks with our destination … Reverend Matthew Watney”
In the end, the roadmap for a brighter future lies in the landmarks of our past. By cherishing these foundations and by imparting their value to the next generation, we ensure that the journey toward justice, equality, and unity remains unwavering and that the beacon of hope continues to shine, undimmed by the challenges of our times.