Guest column/Month acknowledges contributions of African-Americans

Once again, we have embarked upon one more year of commemoration of Black History Month. As we celebrate our history, this period of the year provides an opportunity to acknowledge the historical, political, social, cultural and economic contributions of people of African origins here and around the world.

We are very Godly proud of our history in spite of the great obstacles that have caused us to waver just a bit, however, never, never, ever giving up.

Our history has reached almost every civilization that is known.

The story of Black History Month begins with Carter G. Woodson, an historian. Woodson’s passion for black history evolved in the most unlikely place. As he worked in the coal mine, the daily conversation was regarding the black Civil War veterans and the interesting historical facts that were not recorded in the history books. Woodson realized that despite the constantly evolving history of the African-American experience, documentation was sparse.

Goodson’s enthusiasm led him to college, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in European history and a Ph.D in history. In 1925, Goodson began campaigning among schools, journals and black newspapers, calling for a Negro history week to be celebrated. In 1976, Negro History Week became Black History Month. In 2000, President Bill Clinton proclaimed February as National African-American History Month. Today, we are grateful and joyful and with thanksgiving to Woodson, the great historian, and Clinton for their wisdomatic minds toward our great heritage.

The strong, wide shoulders on which we are standing on today are too numerous to count. There are persons who stand out in my mind, including Dr. Ben Carson and Rosa Parks. Carson, a great pediatric neurosurgeon who separated siamese twins, was the first African-American to hold the position of director of children’s pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Slavery began in 1619 and brought with it the devastation and the division of our families, including our children, working from sunrise to sundown in the field. There were beatings as people were tied to tree trunks, hung by the neck and had gasoline poured on them which was lit with a match, burned bodies all ordered up by the master.

It was a blessing by God’s intervention to be in the field all day and to go to a 4-by-4 shack house. All of those things allowed us to sing very well, and to dance and run as no one could. We always realized that education was a way up and a way out.

I often think of my heritage with pride, realizing that we’ve come this far by faith. Only faith could have brought us to this point.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that he had a dream, His dream and our dreams have partially come true. In spite of the old snake of racism, we salute the first African-American president of the United States. We have come a long way – but not far enough. The journey is not complete.

When we, as African-Americans, can obtain a job as the last one hired, first one fired; when there is disparity in the workplace, we can obtain justice, not according to who you are or the color of your skins. In 2012, some states denied African-Americans the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Our civil rights leaders, led by King, marched continuously for African-Americans to obtain the right to vote. They marched despite the water hoses, stun guns and other weapons. Yes, I can believe in this 21st century that this did happen, but our struggle is not complete.

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was established, and in the first verse it uniquely states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they were endowed by the creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.”

As we look on top of our beautiful Jefferson County Courthouse, we will notice a lady who is holding a scale, which is even and not in any way titled or uneven.

This tells us that in America, there is always equal justice under the law – for all people, not just a few and according to who you are, what color you are, what your nationality is, what your religious affiliation is, what your age is or if you are handicapped – but for all.

We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord. We are the architect of our own destiny.

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Keep us forever in the path,

We pray.

(Wiggins, a resident of Steubenville, is the president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus Inc.)