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Through the Blood of the Righteous: Remembering African-American Martyrs
Black History Month is indeed a time in which we pause to celebrate the tremendous, unprecedented and unparalleled achievements of African-Americans who are alive as well as those who have moved on from labor to reward. Throughout the month of February, we both recognize and celebrate the achievements of people of African-Americans such as Venus Williams in the arena of athletics, Oprah Winfrey in the field of business, former President Barack Obama in politics, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole in education, Roberta Flack in music, Paul Roberson in acting and a host of other people of African descent in various areas. History declares that they worked incessantly to maximize the human potential that God provided them, and in doing so, they have inspired generations of people of all ethnicities who reside in the United States as well as abroad. To be sure, the accomplishments of the African-American that we celebrate this month, in particular, and throughout the year, in general, are rooted in the tremendous sacrifices made by African-Americans and others in this country and abroad. For example, we remain indebted to Fannie Lou Hamer for helping African-American exercise their right to vote and to François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture for resisting European imperialism in Haiti. We stand today on their shoulders. We are, however, unable to pay adequate homage to those to have achieved and sacrificed so much to promote African-American progress without remembering those who endured the ultimate sacrifice for our collective well-being. During the month of February, we remember those who were killed seeking to improve the lives of Black people throughout the world such as Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Patrice Lumumba, Stephen Bantu Biko, Harry and Harriette Moore, the Reverend George Lee, and Fred Hampton.
Biblical scholars have informed us that most of Jesus 12 disciples were martyred. The Christian faith that we now embrace was propelled throughout history through the “ink” (e.g., the printing press and scribes who copied by the bible by hand) and blood of the martyrs. In Matthew 23:29, Jesus eloquently captured how many prophets, who spoke truth to power, were viewed once they were gone. In this passage of scripture, Jesus said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.” In short, people who were once hated as agitators are now recognized as contributors to society.
It is important to keep the memory of those who were martyred alive. It is also important to remember their legacy by becoming champions of justice, beacon lights of hope and change-agents that seek to promote democracy and a life-sustaining environment worldwide.