A wise man once said:
"The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find."
Black History Month is a celebration of this journey of self-discovery and self-worth.
The movement in historic times of peoples from Africa to the Americas, and among other areas around the globe, has been the result of many forces. Although the Atlantic slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries may have been the seminal force that separated African peoples from their mother lands, the forces that sustained the continuation of this physical dispersal are as varied as the many continents and regions where we have found ourselves.
Like many of my brothers and sisters in the diaspora, my family's journey from Africa took us to Central America and the Caribbean. The African diaspora populations in Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador are as diverse as the cultural histories of these countries.
My paternal grandmother was born at the turn of the 20th century where her mother was born, on Isla Carenero in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, at the North East end of the isthmus that is the Republic of Panama, near the border of Costa Rica. Her father, my paternal great grandfather, who she never knew, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He immigrated to Panama to work on a banana plantation owned by United Brands. Since the beginning of the 20th century the history of banana production in Panama basically coincides with the history of United Brands which in some form or other has been present in Panama since 1899.
Again in the late 1940s, it was the search for better economics that motivated my paternal grandmother to leave behind Panama, her family, her son, and the comfort and security of the known in order to accept a job as an au pair (or live-in house maid as they were called back then) with a military family returning home to Westchester, Connecticut after a tour in Panama. Over the years, she sent for my father; but, her sisters and their children remained, and currently live in Rio Abajo, Altos del Rio, in la cuidad de Panama.
For my father, success was becoming an American citizen and serving in the U.S. Army. He had no personal dreams for college and degrees. But, he lived to see his son graduate from Cornell and Harvard and become a Double HOO in Law and Business.
This diaspora story is not unique, and that is why it is remarkable. It takes a special confluence of physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to be separated from the security of the known and to not only rediscover oneself, but also to be happy with the recreation. In most of the diasporan stories that I have encountered, there is a constant theme of an abiding faith in God's boundless and limitless love, a belief that as our surroundings and our circumstances change, God's love for each of us stays the same. God's love has given us certainty in the midst of change and has made it possible for the children of the diaspora to confidently discover and rediscover who we are and to find happiness in the knowledge that God created what we find.
During this Black History month, it is a special honor to be part of the GlobalMindED community which promotes the same principles that have characterized our diasporan stories: faith, inclusiveness, and respect for the innate potential in every human being. GlobalMindED is dedicated to making sure that all students from low-income backgrounds, no matter what their race, are able to experience high quality education, mentorship, experiences and employment options. GlobalMindED challenges us to reach back and to help our children of color, from underserved communities and first generation families, face the challenge of self-discovery and self-worth so that the diaspora continues to make a positive contribution to the world community.
Thank you for joining us June 9-11 in Denver as we open doors for all students and celebrate diversity and inclusion for all.