I was 10 or 11 years old when I started crying while watching a PBS show about something related to HIV/AIDS in Africa. It is a bit blurry now, but I believe there was a woman with a child on the screen. Something about the image shook me so deeply. I remember writing in my journal that night, “I must help my people.”
Years later, in my sophomore year of high school, I remember standing in the library and realizing that slaves worked the land on which I was studying. That moment shifted my identity as a student at that school.
As a kid, my dad told my brother and me stories about Kwame Nkrumah and JJ Rawlings and their leadership of Ghana. I remember being so captivated by them.
Staring at this painting this morning, I think about the work done over the centuries by black people in the US. The slavery endured. The genius contributed. The pursuit of the North Star by so many. Moses getting so close to the Promised Land, but not being able to enter.
I think about the struggle of the people of Africa for millennia to regain control of their continent. The richness of cultures that I am just scratching the surface of knowing. The origin of a considerable amount of the knowledge we have today.
Martin Luther King. Kwame Nkrumah. George Washington Carver. Richard Wright. Patrice Lumumba. Gertrude Liverman. Anna Olivia Som-Pimpong. Those at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Mansa Musa. Yaa Asantewaa. Nancy Fairley. Dora Dugan.
I do what I do to bridge the gap between the black people in the US and Africa, so that we can realize our potential together. So we can reach the light the man in the painting is pointing towards. The light he struggled for but wasn’t able to reach.