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On Their Shoulders, I Stand

Even though I write, words can not express how I truly feel about Black History Month. When I think about the opportunities that I have had (opportunities that were not afforded to my parents, let alone my ancestors), and continue to have; it stirs up a feeling inside me of such gratitude.  It is the same gratitude that you would have when you realize that someone has saved your life. So, I am forever indebted to those who endured centuries of slavery. Those who could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but yet understood that a change would not come without sacrifice.

Being raised in the south as an African American male, often times I had to find strength and esteem through the understanding of what Blacks have endured, and accomplished in America. I am reminded of the sacrifices that have paved the way for my success through learning about Frederick Douglas, W.E.B Dubois, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Jo Baker, James Meredith, Arthur Ashe, and George Washington Carver.

I had the opportunity to work at an F.W. Woolworth's before they closed down. Woolworth's, at the time, was one of the first American retailers. In the Jim Crow South, during the 1950's and 1960's, Woolworth's enforced segregation (white only lunch counters) at their stores. Every day while I worked there I sat at those same lunch counters where blacks were not allowed to sit. If it were not for groups like SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), I would have never had the opportunity to sit at that counter in peace. I was reminded everyday of the brutality and blood that was shed for me to be able to walk through the front door of that establishment.

Because of Black history (my history), I have a connection with my past that continues to give me meaning and purpose for my future. I know the old African proverb to be true, "you can not know where you are going, if you do not know where you come from." I know that I come from struggle; I know that I come from greatness; and on their shoulders, I stand. Not because I have to, for it is a choice to take that stand. I stand because they stood up to slavery, they stood up to Jim Crow, and they stood up against inequality.

In my study of Black history, I understand that the battle is won, but the war is far from over. So I march on, not in the streets of Selma, but in the classrooms of Higher Education. So I vote, not because the presidential candidate looks like me, but because people have died for me to have that right. So I read, not because it is my favorite thing to do, but because my ancestors were not allowed to. I am forever grateful for the lighter burden that I have to carry, because theirs were so heavy.

Harlan Redmond is a Community Mentor. He may be reached via email at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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