Local poet Glenis Redmond interprets history artistically to create engaging, relevant stories. “Black History Month is not just for black people,” she says. “It’s actually for everyone.”
She urges people to see one another for their accomplishments, beauty, and sorrow. “‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike,’” Redmond says, quoting Maya Angelou.
In “Twenty-Eight Ways Black History Month Matters,” Redmond views Black History Month metaphorically as a bridge to understanding. “I think we progress if we hold the past, we don’t live in it, but we understand it,” she says. “We study it, we know it, so we can move forward.”
Calling herself a social justice poet, Redmond uses poetry as a tool to make sense of life. “You look at life to be inspired, or you look at life to try to understand how the world is,” she says. “We’re better people when we reflect.”
Reflecting on past strides in black history, which Redmond notes is American history, she’s thankful but feels more must be done to integrate the history. She considers art an engaging way to teach history, as well as empathy and compassion.
“[We’re] at our best when we start to incorporate and integrate each other’s cultures, not appropriate, but incorporate,” she says. Dedicated to children of all races, Redmond seeks to strengthen future voices through creative expression.
“We’re just still adding to that bridge,” Redmond says. “I just see myself as one of the architects.”
“Twenty-Eight Ways Black History Month Matters” by Glenis Redmond
“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Carter G. Woodson
1. Our celebration began as a week in 1926, from the mind of Carter G. Woodson. 2. He knew we needed a bridge to get us there, but knew a bridge does not appear in happenstance; even though its metal bones majestically rise from the landscape like a magical wonder. 3. Consider the foundation. Plan and set it with intentions. 4. Pick the observance on purpose. In 1976 we got the whole month. We finally got the month not because it is the shortest month, but because of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. 5. Set the framework and pray for cultural intersections. 6. Note twenty-eight days can’t hold the multitudes of our black brilliance. 7. Hope twenty-eight days will bud into 365 days of the year, because Black History is American History.
8. Hope someone will be inspired to pick up a book to learn more than the five to seven requisite heroes and sheroes to which black history is usually truncated. Remember the Greenville Eight, they sat in, so we could stand up. So, we could check out library books to look our history up. Expand. 9. Give people heart and eyes to see how we have melded our innovations into every brace and strut of this edifice we call South Carolina to the whole of the United States. 10. We still tremble when we recite “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” because more needs to be lifted than the notes of our struggle, than the music of our celebration. 11. Let the preachers, poets and activists tell how some days feel like ain’t nothin changed but the date; especially when we speak their names – when we use our voices to lift our ancestors from unmarked graves and from every place of annihilation:
Ann Cowan lynched in Laurens in 1818 to Willie Earle on Bramlett Road in 1947; Orangeburg Massacre: Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton, Henry Ezekial Smith, February 8, 1968; to Walter Scott and Muhiyidin Moye to the blessed Emanuel Nine in Charleston: Mrs. Myra Thompson, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Mrs. Cynthia Graham Hurd, Mrs. Susie Jackson, Mrs. Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. DePayne Vontrease Middleton, Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Mr. Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr.
12. From this shadow-side we still quake from these senseless murders. Remember how Obama sang us awake with “Amazing Grace”? 13. We tread lightly, because we know everywhere we step is a cemetery. 14. How long have we listed our dead? 15. We sing them Sacred. We honor them Holy. 16. As black mothers and fathers – black sons and daughters we pray for mercy, while bullets keep blasting. We know we are so much more than what’s been done to us: forced ocean crossings, downtowns barred, our history erased, displaced, whitewashed and erased. 17. We celebrate to re-mem-ber what’s been dis-mem-ber-ed. 18. May this Black History Month Bridge remind us who we are and who we are yet to be. 19. We are Jesse Jackson’s Push. We are sweat and song. We are castoffs quilted into masterpieces. We are those who walked before us: Fountain Inn Negro High School and Sterling High. We are Peg Leg Bates 20. We are red clay reckonings. 21. We are obsidian epiphanies. 22. We are Vessels full of Faith. 23. We are Black Magic flowering through joy and through sorrow in both gray rainclouds and golden sunrays. We have seen it and been through it all. 24. We act as well as pray. We are Dum Spiro Spero, “While I Breathe, I Hope.” We keep breathing. We keep hoping. 25. We keep crossing over and overcoming. 26. Pray this February Bridge connects us to a greater whole. 27. We keep stepping to emerge singing every note full-throated skyward. 28. We are black blooms. We pierce every cloud anyhow.