I know I haven’t posted much this month but my awareness that February is Black History Month has been high. Seems to me this year that there is even more information out there than ever before about Black history, which excites me. I adore learning new things. I cherish encountering new people. So I thought I’d share a couple of highlights from the month for me.
Yesterday, NASA’s DC headquarters was renamed. The space agency headquarters now bears the name of Mary Jackson. Mary was a Black women who started as a research mathematician for NASA. Part of her story is told in the book and movie called ‘Hidden Figures’. Mary was an instrumental and brilliant mind involved in launching John Glenn into space – for America’s first orbital flight – in 1962. She later became the agency’s first Black female engineer. Mary represents an important part of America’s history and I was excited to learn of this posthumous honor bestowed upon her yesterday.
I learned something else new this month. Don’t know if I’ve told you before but I am a big ice hockey fan. I grew up in a house with one TV. And my father dictated what the family would watch. It was often ice hockey. He’s a New York Rangers’ fan. So I learned the game at a young age and it’s akin to breathing oxygen that I watch hockey. Often. 🙂 I’m a fan of the Washington Capitals. I’ve been watching Alex Ovechkin since he debuted in 2005. He’s an amazing athlete and I think he plays the most exciting sport there is. But, I digress.
I’ve only known about the NHL. That’s the National Hockey League, which began in 1917. The NHL has been and continues to mostly be predominately White. What I learned for the first time this month is this. Way back in 1895, there was a hockey league formed in Nova Scotia. It was an all-Black league. The Colored Hockey League featured Canadian teams and lasted until 1930. To be a fan as big as I am, and to be a fan for as long as I’ve been, I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it until now. I mean, this all-Black league is another part of history that I think is important, or at least fun, to know.
So as the month winds down and I think of Black History month, I think of aspiration. We spend time acknowledging and educating about Black people and the parts they play in our culture and history. And that means we get to glimpse aspiration. Aspirations that are cultivated by our dreams, aspirations that motivate us and move us forward, aspirations that lead to achievement. And here I HAVE to talk about one of my favorite authors and poets before I go. I experienced Maya Angelou mostly as a writer. She was a poet and a memoirist, among many other things. She shared her life experience and her wisdom in several books and gifted us with scads of poetry.
One of my favorite poems of Maya’s is ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ which she wrote and read for Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. I encourage you to read the poem in its entirety for its brilliance and its moving message. (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48990/on-the-pulse-of-morning ) Here, I’m simply going to highlight a couple of striking points.
‘You, created only a little lower than the angels
have crouched too long in the bruising darkness
have lain too long facedown in ignorance
your mouths spilling words armed for slaughter.’
This. In 1993. If she thought that then, what would she say now? Her observation has become more true, more accurate and an even more stark warning to us recently, in my opinion.
Maya goes on to warn us that ‘history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.’
And towards the end, she calls us to an act we might still consider embracing.
‘Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
and into your sister’s eyes
and into your brother’s face,
and say simply
With hope –
Maya invites us to greet the new day, grab hold of the new morning and begin again. With hope. And that’s an aspiration I’d like to embrace. Good morning, everyone. 🙂