Magazine article Black History Bulletin

"Hip, Hip Hooray! A Celebration of African American Resiliency."

Magazine article Black History Bulletin

"Hip, Hip Hooray! A Celebration of African American Resiliency."

Article excerpt

African Americans are a resilient people. Their predecessors were wrested from their African homeland and brought to America as slaves. Families were torn apart, communities were destroyed and friendships severed. Yet, for hundreds of years African Americans have remained steadfast in their quest to hold their new, altered communities together. Further, as freed men and women, they sought to maintain avenues for communal growth and success. One way in which this has been done is through the strength of African American civic, social and fraternal institutions. These institutions have been, and continue to be, bastions of power, independence and shared vision during triumphs as well as sanctuaries of compassion, problem-solving and hope during trials and tribulations. Accordingly, it stands to reason that the guiding viewpoints for these institutions would grow out of the visions of the individuals responsible for their creation individuals who had dreams of collective African American achievement and will.

Scott, in his manuscript on institution building wrote the following about the visions of the institution


   It is the story of men and women [institution
   builders] who insisted on being more than what
   others would have them be, who sought a degree
   of self-determination, and who organized and
   sacrificed to realize it. By and large, the institution
   builders were those who remembered from whence
   they came and constructed a world within a world
   to improve harsh social conditions, to organize
   against oppression, and to create spaces where
   individual aspirations could be pursued and
   realized. (1)

Scott wrote of those responsible for the building of institutions as those who "created spaces" where African Americans were free to pursue their dreams in a "constructed" world that waged war against a repressive and unsympathetic society. He further explained that whatever period these spaces were created, they reflected the needs of the community. Similarly, in an article written after Hurricane Katrina for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter (2), Professor Joy DeGruy-Leary's was invited to share her theory which expounds upon the connection between the contemporary behavior of African Americans and the feeling of disrespect they felt stemming from slavery. The article cites findings of a study in which she looked at 200 young African Americans who hailed from the same community. Half of them were incarcerated and the other half went on to college. Professor DeGruy-Leary contends that the difference between those who went to college and those who were incarcerated they felt that "they were respected." The article went on to quote Professor DeGruy-Leary's explanation for these acquired coping skills--"Their families and communities instilled in them a true history of who they were, to sustain them through a harsh environment. It's not that they did not experience racism, but that they had the skills and tools to navigate through it." The article further explained that "those without the skills fell into a negative pattern of behavior marked by feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and suspicion, sometimes leading to violence against themselves and others."

After reading the fate of the young students who were not equipped with the skills to navigate those spaces in which they felt disrespected, we were first stricken with dismay. …

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