By Lou Coleman
Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Madam C. J. Walker, Mum Bett, Shirley Chisholm, Wangari Maathai, Tegla Laroupe, Gertrude Kabatalemwa , Barbara Jordan, Rosa Parks, Ida B Wells, Marva Collins, Miriam Anderson, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Dorothy Height, Mary Church Terrell, Marian Wright, Dolores Huerta, Daisy Bates, Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Poinsette Clark, Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, Mary McLeod Bethune, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, Angela Davis, Betty Shabazz, Coretta Scott King, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, Anna Berry Smith, Yes…I Am…. Cotton Mather, Frederick Douglas, George Washington Carver, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, Booker T Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Paul Roberson, James Meredith, Stokely Carmichael, A. Philip Randolph, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Olaudah Equiano, Kwame Nkrumah, Kofi Annan, Haile Selassie, Oliver Tambo, Shaka Zulu, Nnamdi Azikiwe, E.D. Nixon, Cornet West, Benjamin Banneker; Richard Allen, John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Dick Gregory, Morris Dees, Percy Julian, Richard Loving, Mohammed Ali, Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, Michael Schwemer, Dr. Carter G. Woodsons, Barack Obama, Richard C. Boone, Benjamin Banneker, Granville T. Woods, Louis Latimer, Garret Morgan; Charles Harrison Mason and countless others.
I don’t know from where you were stolen. I don’t know how many of you freed yourselves or died in bondage. Yet I claim you all and I honor you. The savage ferocity of slavery has torn your names from the memories of your descendants but not your lives, your survival, your strength. Whatever it is that I am and all that I am, I am because you were. I cannot contemplate my future without reflecting on my past, our past. As I look at the genesis of people of color and note our heroic journey traveled as a people—through enslavement, oppression, rejection and segregation—the greatest constant, on the path to the freedoms enjoyed today, was the presence of God-loving, God-fearing, and God-worshiping men and women. I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. [2 Timothy 1:3]
In your name, in your memory we work and pray and struggle, weeping and rejoicing at what has been and what will be.