“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.

Here is the second portrait of me created by Asheville Artist Jane Snyder. It is living at the Asheville Gallery of Art. The price is $350.00  I love this likeness. Fierce. And I am not always smiling. This is a truth. Jane found and captured me. I am thankful of the representation.

The Glenis Redmond Scholarship is awarded annually to encourage Greenville college students to pursue English and Creative Arts in College.

Submissions Open: January 1st
Close: Feb. 28th
Winner Announced: March 15th

Who may apply:
Incoming college freshman, ages 17-19, who intend to pursue degree in English Literature and are current residents of Greenville County, SC.

Special consideration given to first generation college degree seekers

Award: $1,000

Go to the EMRYS website for guidelines and how submit to your application.

For the Asheville Art Museum Appalachian Now By Glenis Redmond

The opposite of remember is not to forget, but to dismember.

To know the now, we must understand the then–

not just the beauty of the blue ridge,

the majestic lumbering greens,

the eye-catching vistas,

but how the past crumples purples into a fist

that draws a line that severs–

keeps us one from another.

Ask the Cherokee, the Coosa, the Choctaw

the Muskogee and the Algonquin.

Ask the poor white pioneer

and the manacled and shackled slave.

It is in bruised notes they sing

in the ballads and the blues–

the haunting strum of the dulcimer

and the echo tongue of the drums.

They draw you in and tell you

how the cruel axe falls.

Or, how tight the rope is strung.

The artist enters into the now

and nothing and no one escapes their eye–

nothing evades the heart–

no matter how troubling–

no matter how terrific.

The artists finds a way to show us on canvas, in clay,

with metal, with glass, with paint,

with tools, with camera or a brush and pins.

Pushes us beyond.

The artist did not come to make

anyone comfortable not even themselves.

So, they wake us with each piece they make–

hoping we enter into these halls

able to see ourselves–

in each piece reflecting what’s been dismembered.

Follow the spiral of the clouds, the river and the road.

They never ask are we one?

Because even when halved by the horizon

they know we are whole–

the struggle is in the stitching.

We radically defy with love,

when we tell our stories in these halls.

The nugget is in everyone–

to see ourselves in each other:

We Rem-mem-ber.

We Member.

We become one.

This is our task.

Here is a lovely piece of artwork by Asheville artist, Jane Snyder. She and her partner Janet Oliver have been lovely to me during my bout with Multiple Myeloma. I get a card from Janet every week, except when they took a trip to Italy. Then, when they returned, I received a journal from Florence. It is from lovely people such as these that keep my heart believing and inspired. Thank you to Janet for putting pen to cards. Thank you to Janet for putting brush to paper.

Make no apologies for yourself
Because you are covered by a listening skin
Because every ache you feel is not your own
Because of your mother’s loss
and your father’s rage
Because of how many rivers they’ve crossed
Because you plummet even if you cannot swim
Because of the lynching tree
Because when you enter bookstores
books fall off shelves into your open palms
Because you ask questions of the universe
so the world opens before you like a page of text
Because of those clouds and that murder of crows
Because poets are your wounded idols
Because the truth, even if it hurts is to be cherished and held
Because when people die you believe that they walk with you daily
Because the river has a mouth that speaks their names
Because the river flows with stories
Because you sit on the shore and listen
Because alone is more comforting than together
Because your pen is oceanic
Because you are big-eyed and eyes wide
Because you suffer from what you see and hear
Because you have sinus arrhythmia
your heart is linked to your breath
and your breath is short,
Because asthma is only one of the monkeys on your back
Because your heart is the vehicle you choose to ride this go ’round
Because it can go forward and backwards in time
Because bookstores have always been oracles
Because poetry is your archeological tool
Because you dig and dive
and you trust the ride of journal and journey
even if you don’t always float
Because your heart beats to your breath
Because of this music, you dance raw and wild

New York Times, May 2019