With the festival taking place next month, I thought it would be great if I prepared you for what to expect when attending. At first, I was going to do this quick deep dive into what I feel makes this festival great - two priorities that I keep in mind when doing any work for its success: educate and celebrate. But, while these are why we do what we do each year, I wanted to be sure there was a focus on you. And, that you understand one thing for certain: I want you to feel beautiful. Education Because I'm a realist, permit me to root my feelings in facts. If you haven't seen it yet, please check out the two-part series on the Reconstruction Era hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and featured earlier this month on PBS. The Gullah people, and by extension the African-American community, are a people who come from stolen kings and queens, prophets and holy men, teachers and griots, artists and musicians, farmers and fishermen, midwives and surgeons. We come from a civilization of people who were kidnapped and enslaved for the building up of this nation. This reality was made harder, because there was an intentional effort to make a people who came from love, royalty, and ingenuity, feel like they came from nothing, as if our existence started here. This narrative is rooted in lies, a false reality. Black people are beautiful, and I often find myself marveling at the awesomeness of my people! Every single day, the older I get, I am simply amazed by the strength, beauty, resilience of the descendants of the African diaspora. No other people have mastered the process of reinventing themselves quite like we have. Like a phoenix, we continually rise from ashes as fabulous, cloaked in glorious plumage, covered in God's amazing grace and armor, ready to battle the next era. It's never been easy, but we are still here.
Celebration In celebration of our existence, we can point out ancestors like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, activist Rosa Parks, author Langston Hughes, investigative journalist Ida B. Wells, land surveyor Benjamin Banneker, inventor George Washington Carver, and closer to home General Robert Smalls. But there are many living examples in President Barack & First Lady Michelle Obama, Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Stacey Abrams, entertainers Beyoncé and Jay-Z, entrepreneur and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, actress Regina King and actor Denzel Washington, designer Ruth E. Carter, and the list goes on and on and on.... Locally, we have examples like Principals Constance Goodwine-Lewis of Broad River Elementary and Freddie Lawton of Whale Branch Middle School; teachers Dr. Jacqueline R. Lawton of Robert Smalls International Academy and Dr. Pretel Simmons of Whale Branch Early College High School; church leaders like Reverend J.E. Moore of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, farmers' market vendors, shrimpers and fishermen like my cousin Charlie Abner; artists like Jonathan Greene; and social and civic organizations' leaders. There are plenty of people that we can shine lights on who hold us up and are examples of the good we are doing today, all while setting up the next generation for tomorrow's success.
You are beautiful. You are remarkable. You are risen from the ashes, renewed again. You are worthy to be celebrated! I look forward to seeing you at the festival. Kenyana Briscoe