I recently had a chance to meet with and hear Henry Louis Gates discuss his latest work, which I have been watching on TV. The series is the most captivating I have ever seen on the subject. There is an insight in every pause, word, sentence, still, etc. Truly remarkable. “Must See TV”.
Upon introducing myself, the first thing he remarked is “you are of Haitian descent” which is half true, the other half being Canadian. Both facts figure prominently in early episodes, and I found myself feeling extremely proud of my heritage. I consider my heritage a gift.
During his keynote address to a room of about 100 of us, he mentioned his Harlem roots, spoke about the need for everyone to understand America’s economic history and the key role the enslavement and torture of human beings played, and urged everyone to become more educated about the achievements and innovations of African Americans.
He also talked about the need for current and new black leaders to develop a comprehensive strategy for making sure that ground won is not lost (voting rights, affirmative action, etc) and for closing a widening economic gap that leaves millions of people no better today than they were 30 years ago (a sad fact that statistics support). He also mentioned the importance of personal responsibility. One aspect of which I call “doing it from within” – as in your self. Your family. Your community. As the circle widens it causes change. Like ripples across the many rivers we have – and will continue to, cross. As so well told by Mr. Gates.