As a Black child growing up in inner-city Chicago in the 1960’s, I often recall February with great pride and fond memories. My teachers would spend the month celebrating “Black History” and sharing information about great Black American historical figures including Fredrick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, WEB Dubois, Booker T. Washington, Sojourner Truth, Jackie Robinson, Ida B. Wells, and George Washington Carver.
My lived experience has been filled with witnessing so many firsts:
-The first black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall
-The first black woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm
-The first black female astronaut, Mae Jamison
I have also experienced the first black U.S. President, Barack Obama. I have also lived through the emergence of significant civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the first black Mayors of Chicago and Detroit: Harold Washington and Coleman Young. This is my lived experience.
I witnessed some of the most significant black history firsthand: The Chicago Freedom March of 1965; the riots of Detroit in 1967, the riots of Chicago in 1968, and the civil rights movement at its infancy as I traveled to the “Jim Crow” south, in Georgia and Tennessee, to visit my family. These are indelible moments not only in the history of America, but also in the minds of many black children like me that grew up in either an inner city or a rural community across America, only wanting the opportunities to be treated equally and maybe to live the American dream. This is my lived experience.
As history is being written today, I am living during the election of the first black female Vice President, Kamala Harris, an insurrection at the U.S. capital, a global pandemic, an assault on the liberties of our freedom to vote, and the most challenging economic times unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Our lived experiences shape the core of who we are. My experiences growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s shaped my identity and affected many things that are important in my life today. The importance of family, education, community, and the importance of meaningful and authentic relationships. An important factor that has shaped so much of who I am today is the important of service. Whether it was cleaning up our neighborhood in Chicago after the riots, or the experiences I had through the various youth organizations I matriculated in, service was at the core of shaping my values, influencing my commitment, and defining my identity. This is my lived experience.
The continued challenges facing all of us today will impact our shared lived experience. What is your lived experience? How are you mapping and chronicling these experiences? How are you using your own snapshots and your cinematic archives which capture and maintain these experiences while preparing you to tell your own unique story?