Black History Month


Photo by Justin Case

I sit and think and imagine the pattern of things. Every year, Black History month comes around and we focus on the past. Undoubtedly, themes of the transatlantic slave trade come up, and the atrocities of it, as well as its generational impact. We speak about Jim Crow and the civil rights movement and lament how incomplete the work was. Many of us paint pictures of a still-oppressed population of Black people. Some say the only way out is the destruction of all current systems, as the outgrowth of Black anger. So much of the focus is on justice that we never received and have yet to realize. We speak of reparations that we are owed and still have not gotten. It seems that a backward focus magnifies the feelings of defeat and inferiority, a sense of “lesser than.”

This perpetual crawling and begging through the human timeline paints a posture that our children may emulate. I realize the wisdom behind the sentiment that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. But what if the past was a mention and our imagination of the future was the highlight? What if instead of focusing on what happened to us or what someone has never given to us, we focus on what we can give ourselves? The law of focus states that whatever you focus on expands. This would change our elders from bitter, battered warriors to freelance artists with a canvas of future dreams. We would have an army of young Black men and women reinvigorated by hope and believing that they have the power to recreate the story. The story you tell has the power to inspire hope and hope has empowered people to change nations. If a story can change a nation, then it can change a People. Let’s not tell history, let’s tell Ourstory.

Photo by Justin Case, Face mask by Chip Doug

When we speak of the past, tell the vantage point of our great strength to overcome such atrocities, our inventions, our love and ability to remain steadfast. Then, let’s focus the bulk of our time on our future. A future housed in the creation of the Beloved Community. Let not society tell us of an American dream that consists of the amassing of material goods and f inancial overflow as the mandatory expression of success. Originally a tribal people, we have always known that it took a village to raise or sustain anything worth having and people have always been the greatest treasure. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. espoused the Beloved Community as the framework for the future. This is the goal of the RI non-profit Nonviolence Institute, where I serve our community, and of all Kingian nonviolence practitioners around the world. It was his vision for Black Americans and the world community.

The Beloved Community is not a place where violence and conflict does not exist, but is a gathering of people who have agreed to respond to conflict with nonviolent means, so as to not multiply pain and perhaps heal the initial wrong presented. It’s a place where we educate, celebrate, console, and help one another sustain our lives. It’s the kind of community where each individual is supported by the whole in reaching their fullest potential. It’s a biological construct – a system, if you will – that produces a sense of fulfillment and works toward the general wellness of the collective. This Beloved Community could be a street, a block, a neighborhood, a school, an organization, or any border around a common people who have agreed to collectively reach its realization. We only need a People somewhere who want to embark on this journey, and it can grow from there. Hatred and death abound all around us, for many reasons, proving the need for this safe haven. It is the present day’s most pressing need. The proverbial 40 acres with no need for a mule. The antidote to our mutual destruction. The Beloved Community can be attained, the village can be rebuilt, but we all have to be in agreement that it is rightfully Ourstory.

Shane Lee is a man of faith, a Kingian nonviolence practitioner, a community builder, a singer/songwriter and a proud family man. IG @shane.a.lee401