Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just because you're the first...

...doesn't make it historic.

Recently I reported a story about the Kentucky African-American Encyclopedia Project. This is to be the first of its kind anywhere in the country. An entire encyclopedia complete with 16-20 essays on the history and life of Blacks in the state. Estimated to be more than 1000 pages and 1000 entries when completed in 2011.

One of the editors, a woman who is a MASTERFUL librarian and now a Ph.D. student of history, said that just because a person may be the first at something, they may not make the book. This isn't just a chronicle but a recount of history and how things significantly impacted future generations.

This made me think because I have been critical of our local sororities and fraternities for giving out baseless honors to people in the community while skipping our first Black city council woman who is in her second year of a two year term. But when I think about it, what has she done? She won in the smallest district where less than 2000 votes were cast between her and her opponent. It is a district that has always had Black male representation so it wasn't a stretch for a Black woman to be elected. And she hasn't bucked the status-quo too much except on expanded liquor sale hours. Nothing ground breaking, she's just the first.

Then I recalled a family "discussion"/argument about Condoleezza Rice. My sister in laws husband said that we should be proud of Condi because she speaks several languages and plays piano and she is an example to our young people of what they could be. My husband and mother in law jumped on him with both feet! Basically they said she stands for nothing on her own and represents a corrupt regime. So how is that historical? She was just the first.

Does first make you worthy of a footnote in history? Should it be based on impact? What should make history?

Have you thought about what history will say about you?


Bridgette Alyce said...

I see what you're saying - and couldn't agree more with your husband and mother-in-law's view of Condi. I think for accuracy of record ... in any area of life... it's fine to chronicle who was first - with an equally accurate account of that person's contribution, whether excellent or mediocre. No need to attack - just state the facts.

Brother OMi said...

i ponder both questions all the time. I have accomplished many firsts. To get there, I had to put in alot of work and had help from many people i love.

history? local and regional history will probably have enough to say about me. Especially when it comes to Zulu nation and hip hop culture. national history? I might just be a blurb or a footnote... I am okay with that. I know there are many sisters and brothers i have touched who will be much greater than I ever considered I ever would be. that says alot more.

great entry