The 15 Chapter of Paul’s letter to the body of believers in Rome finds him offering perspective to way in which the church ought view Old Testament writ. The Apostle Paul writes in the 4th verse, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”. Paul suggests that the sacred text ought not be exclusively considered as written wisdom of the past but should also be seen as a tool to provide direction for how we ought to live and engage our present.
The Apostle’s epistle provides a framing for the way that we, as African Americans, ought to engage our own past. As we find ourselves in the middle of yet another Black History Month, celebrating the contributions made by our ancestors to this nation and the world, perhaps the perspective we should take of our rich and remarkable history is not one of annual acknowledgment but also one of persistent provocation.
With all that God has empowered our people to overcome in the past, perhaps viewing that past with a different lens would allow us to discover the tools needed to catalyze as we attempt to overcome in this present season of struggle we are in. Our progression must not only be propelled by our passion but also from the precepts, principles, and practices we pull from our past in order to lay ground for our future. Not all repeated history signifies doom. Repeated history that results in righteous redemption is of the greatest value. Those who seek to oppress us repeat history for their benefit. It is high time that we repeat our history for ours.
What if we looked to our history for meaningful models of liberation instead of solely for memorable milestones? Perhaps deeper, what does it mean to hold up a history that we do not value enough to emulate?
The examples given by the pillars of our yesterday, the principled ways in which we protested, the dignified determination and discipline of our leaders, the pellucidity to press past a mistake and place priority on the purpose must all be seen and treated as jewels of the highest worth. Essential equipage as we attempt to navigate through a wilderness of wickedness towards a Promised Land that we are presently unable to see.
The proper perspective of the times behind us get us through, and over, the times before us. We must resolve to lift our history from the tombs of traditional tendency. For when our history is lifted, it, in turn, lifts us. When we choose to keep a singular perspective of the days of old, we depreciate the distinction of those days. When we do not take the lessons from our history, our history actually lessens. We transform it into something trite and less notable with each passing moment.
In a time where government attempts to pacify us, police attempt to persecute us, corporations attempt to capitalize upon us…in a time where many of don’t “do” because we do not know what to do, we must not only learn from our history but also be willing to listen to our history. We may be surprised by what we hear.