As a retired teacher of Black History in Piqua, Ohio, I have long been concerned about the status given to memorializing historical events and figures connected to the African-American experience throughout our society.
I have seen a reluctance to embrace local, national and internationally famous heroes and heroines in the struggle for freedom and in meriting a place in our hearts and a public space of “ownership identity” within our community. Other places where a geographically and demographically isolated and culturally dominant group resides also reflects this cultural attitude. To be sure this is not solely a racial barrier but a gender, religious, financial and political problem of not sufficiently valuing and dignifying an “inclusive historical heritage” within our nation. I have been fighting the good fight for a long time and as Vernon Johns the forerunner of the civil rights icon the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “if you see a good fight, get in it!”
As you can see below, the struggle has been on-going and speaking truth to power will yield an occasional accomplishment. But the long term quest of aspiring to greatness is still very much in question. My most recent campaign has been to persuade the Randolph descendants to stop their “stinking thinking” and to teach our children of color to value and memorialize the efforts and contributions of their ancestors. At the same time, attempting to persuade the Friends of the Johnston Farm Council that the African-American migratory experience should be valued and memorialized through the expansion of the Miami-Erie Canal Museum has been a challenge. I have been anxious to have the community understand my “total commitment” to a personal vision for Piqua.
That struggle continues but the appearance of Chief Glenna Wallace as the keynote speaker at the Statehood Day program at The Ohio Historical Connection Luncheon will open another pathway to discovery and inclusion in understanding the relationship between the Native American and African-American experience in the upper Miami Valley. That relationship can easily be captured and secured with an understanding of the importance of the year 1846 as being pivotal in our history and what now we wish to do about that history in telling our own contemporary and inclusive story today.
God always has a remnant and places people in our lives so as to allow us to choose to glorify Him and recognize whose we are Matters Who we are! My mentor Arthur “Sonny” Thomas, a Piqua native, will play a crucial role in explaining the 1846 connection and the opportunity the community of Piqua will have as a “model” of leadership in promoting a reconciling, healing and hospitable environment in which to project our Inclusive historical heritage.
Piqua now is the time! And “the time is always right to do what is right!” MLK let us choose wisely the path we wish to embark upon. Watch and be informed in knowing better and doing better. Visit YouTube and search for “An Inclusive Historical Heritage-Part One.”