Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Our Stories, Our Way

As a specials producer for WHUR-World, I have the opportunity to research, write, and report stories that I feel may make an impact because of their relevance. In the series Activists and Politics, I focus on social and political activism among African Americans. As a young African American woman, it is important to me to tell our stories. The first installment is entitled “One Vote, One Chance: The Ballot in Black America”, which aired on November 3rd, 2008. The special focused on the history of the Black political process; from the ending of slavery, to the Civil Rights movement, to present day. Coincidently, the special aired the day before the first African American President, Barack Obama, was elected to office. Like numerous others, I watched the television feeling a range of emotions from happiness to disbelief. But then I took a moment to reflect on the piece, which I worked on for months before. Doing a piece on voting in the Black community really opened my eyes and made me acutely aware of the fact that I would not be experiencing such a historic day without the struggle of my ancestors.

Since the thirteenth amendment was passed, Black people have been fighting for equality. Reading and hearing about the blood that my ancestors shed so that my generation could have a better life was inspiring and emotional. It was motivating and life changing to hear stories about Ella Baker, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hammer and countless others, who fought for basic rights that we take for granted today, like voting. Knowing that there were so many outrageous obstacles designed to prevent Black people from voting like literacy tests, poll taxes, and lynching often makes me wonder how Black people got the courage to confront those obstacles and fight for the right to vote. I feel that showing the history of the Freedom Summer of 1964 or the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party is important. It is important for African Americans to continue learning and exposing ourselves, as well as others, to our history. As a young woman, it is sometimes hard for me to fathom that my ancestors were beaten, bitten by dogs, drenched my fire hoses, and killed in order to make a political statement. But I am more than grateful for their courage and determination to make life for African Americans in this country better.

The story of voting in the African American community is an important piece of our rich heritage. Although we have elected one of our own into office, there is still more work to do. Racism and discrimination still affect our community. But we can not move forward without knowing our history. And that is the beauty of Activists and Politics. The series tells our history our way.

***Stay tuned to WHUR-World for more exciting editions of Activists and Politics. ***

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