“History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. The role of history is to tell a people what they have been, and where they have been, what they are and where they are. The most important role that history plays is that it has the function of telling a people where they still must go and what they still must be.”
John Henrik Clarke
Histories are important aren’t they?
We all like to ask parents, family members and kinship relations “what was I like when I was young?” or “do you remember when you grew up… what it was like?”
The textbook states, “history is the witness that testifies to the passing of time, it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, and provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tiding of antiquity ”
One of the most valuable chapter readings this week is Chapter 5 – don’t get me wrong chapter 3 and 4 are wonderful as they serve as segues to 5 but I’m very attracted to Chapter 5. It makes me think about the complexities of our lives, our identities, our families and the communities we each grew up in – Our grands and great grand lives and the stories they pass from generations to generations. Where we read… we are asked to understand the importance of history and the reason we must respect different cultures historical traditions. It can be difficult for some because asking them – especially our elders (as you see in Wind Grass Song) means they must revisit something that was hard, cause great pain or sought to remove their voice and experiences.
Even though this is true if we seek to educate and other stand others who are different from ourselves we must understand the importance of histories — It can help us consider the significance and strong relationship between the study of intercultural communication and the study of history and it can function as a critical launch into why we are who we are in our current day.
For this week’s discussion post view the following 20 min. short documentary. It is a few most prolific story tellers – “our grandmothers” sharing each of their respective experiences of their past growing up in Oklahoma. It might feel a bit slow but endure and watch the full content.
ABOUT THE FILM: Based on interviews with Oklahoma women aged 85 to 101 years, Wind Grass Song presents a unique vision of U.S. regional culture through an invaluable oral history. In this impressionistic documentary, venerable faces and voices of these elder women–Black, Native American and white–are interwoven with highly evocative shots of the landscape. Summer locusts, prairie grass and tornadoes of red earth are swept into the rhythms of rural life on the Great Plains, conveying how the land shaped the lives of these courageous women.
The book chapter notes that the rationale and assumptions for the study of history is predicated on two assumptions – 1) historical events help explain the character and actions of a culture. “For all people, history is the source of the collective consciousness” says historian Kerblay. 2) the second assumption is what a culture seeks to remember and pass on to following generations tells us about the character of that culture.
1) Consider the short documentary and chapter readings.
2) Second, I’ve attached a short personal narrative excerpt from psychologist and professor Dr. Benson Cooke (***this is for a upcoming unpublished book chapter so don’t share) READ IT
3) For discussion First, WRITE A SHORT 10-12 SENTENCES OF YOUR PERSONAL NARRATIVE – YOUR HISTORY [AS YOU HAVE HEARD IT SHARED]
- IN THE WRITING PROVIDE ME AND YOUR PEERS ONE OR TWO OF WHAT YOU FEEL ARE IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF YOUR HISTORY. WHICH WOULD HELP SOMEONE WHO DIDN’T KNOW YOU BETTER UNDERSTAND YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HISTORY
4) For continued discussion, Second write –
- WHAT MADE IT CHALLENGING TO WRITE YOUR FAMILIAL HISTORY IN 10 – 12 SHORT SENTENCES?
- WHAT WAS ENRICHING ABOUT WRITING YOUR FAMILIAL HISTORY IN 10-12 SHORT SENTENCES?
5) To conclude your discussion – What are the take aways from this week’s discussion post?
***For me one of the most important takeaways is in reference to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her TedTalk — that there is danger in a single story. The second take away – we all have our respective histories and stories that have been passed from generation to generation. They are important even when they are sorted, confusing, silencing, etc… As we read each others HISTORIES it is important to see them – really see them and consider how they can be useful for understanding each of our individual and collective stories, narratives.
My Mother, My Story
My curiosity with my own family health issues was infused by conversations with my mother throughout my childhood, adolescent, and adult years. One of her stories that would weigh heavy on her emotionally occurred when she was five years of age. One story revealed the impact of health disparities affecting her mother’s death because of legally sanctioned segregated medical care and the inability or extreme difficulty of African American’s securing emergency medical treatment in 1932. These Jim Crow and segregated conditions would impact generations of our family and other families who struggled with pre-existing health conditions throughout the 20th century and well into the 21st century. Historically, African American’s have had less access to healthcare because of systemic and institutional social constructs that inhibit access to affordable care and state-of-the-art hospital treatment. Even when many of the institutional barriers preventing access were removed by law, the conscious and unconscious negative racial stereotypes ascribed to African American’s would sustain a misinformed bias that continues to impact clinical decision making by many professionals in the medical community.
It is this history of systemic and institutional racism combined with generational pre-existing health challenges that would be a catalyst to my curious journey of health. The seminal event that would galvanize my academic focus occurred during my college graduation when I learned of my mother’s growing health struggle with type-2 diabetes. She suffered what she would call ‘a diabetic attack’ shortly after my graduation ceremony. To ease my growing anxiety about her status, she jokingly said, ‘son I just want you to promise that you will take care of yourself’…you don’t want this. She continued with a more exacting tone, “I want you to promise me to eat right, don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively or at all, exercise and try to avoid hanging around crazy people that stress you out. Decades after her sage advice, I now find myself incorporating into my practice and research the key perspectives, which I believe address key health and social issues and that draw on a knowledge of beneficial strategies that enhance optimal health of generations to come within my own family and the racial/ethnic community that I identify.
What I learned early in my life is that my family’s history is foundational to my own history. I believe that the same is true when it comes to understanding the history of African Americans over the past 400 years in America. Consequently, the family and personal history my mother shared with me is one that was lived by her and in some ways by me too. I witnessed the impact of her family and personal health struggles and her memories of those of her parents and siblings and those who came before. I came to recognize that the combination of shared epigenomic history, social history, environmental factors, and health equity would influence and impact my generation and generations to come.