There's an enormous gap in generational history for many Americans of African, Caribbean, and Native descent. Compared to European and Asian generations, their puzzle pieces are most likely shoved under the dusty floorboards or tossed in flames. Yet, many are bridging the woven wrinkles in time. For Professor Adrian Brown, this continues to be why he majored, now teaches in African-American studies.
“I didn't run across too many people that looked like me in school," Brown confessed. Moreover, having a connection with a similar individual “would have made a better [school] experience because they probably related to the same experiences I went through." While teaching, he notes the different teaching tools and resources between title one schools, those considered underprivileged, and those deemed economical.
“How can history be illustrated from the victim's side?" Brown asks regarding our outdated books always from the European perspective. He looks to social activist, proclaimed lawyer, and author of “Just Mercy," Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson's pages highlight his stand against the death penalty and numerous unjust cases against African-Americans, many stories almost forced to be forgotten.
“Stevenson started the Equal Justice Initiative, which touches on the Jim Crow era. More or less how slaves went through massive incarceration," explains Brown. In a recent visit to the Montgomery Legacy Museum, Brown saw American history's harsh reality that continues to spill over into the judicial system. “The justice system needs to be exposed," he asserts. “People need to be aware of the accounts not publicized and realize that there are still people sitting in jail for a crime they did not commit."
Moreover, The Legacy Museum displays the accounts of slaves and spotlights America's stain of practicing racism. An engrained pain for thousands. Brown agrees that although tragic, we need to learn from it and strive to remember the same way we do with the Holocaust. So how can we as a society accept that African history is in every aspect of global history?
Brown is affirmative in his response that “in America, we like to dumb it down into one month, the shortest month. Without black history, what is American history? It goes beyond the borders of The United States." Long before our continents split, Pangea's center is what we all call Africa today, the core continent of human life. Africa derives from the word Alkebulan meaning “mother of mankind" or “garden of Eden."
Yet, there's a growing stigma that African nations and their people are not deemed “modern and civil." Brown's theory is the “challenge" of winning or losing a “game." A game we all know well and choose to ignore: xenophobia. “The idea around the world is that we are “the white man's burden" and they want to conquer the world and make everyone the same." Essentially it is the people who “don't want to step into the gap of cultural language."
To combat this thinking style, Brown offers a simple solution beyond the classroom: genealogy. “I encourage everyone to do this," adding that he, himself, is “on the same page to learning something new." Many Asian and predominantly white families in America already know their generational story. Furthermore, many others like to toss in the “I'm part Cherokee" card yet don't know anything about it or are incorrect in their research. For centuries, battle with European settlers and their descendants brought the slaughter of hundreds of Native American tribes to near extinction; therefore, society goes by the few groups remaining.
For those remaining families and African and Caribbean slaves, the American government sought to stamp out their native tongue and attire. They aimed to destroy their identity. This very thought process has devalued our education and acceptance of others. There's an array of cultures and countries that form vibrant Africa. Yet how many of us can accurately name all the countries in Africa compared to Asia, Europe, and South America? Your answer might surprise you.
“The majority of Africans in The United States come from West African nations," unveils Brown. “I've been able to trace mine down to Ghana, but that's just one side of the family." Despite the gaps, he advises not to “give up with the culture and history search because it's important." Extending to “follow and publicize the local people, the grassroots." He expresses that “these folks are the ones we don't hear about enough. Being in Charleston, there's a lot of inspirational people that make a difference" beyond Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson. “Even my father," Brown acclaims, “was one of the first pages of the South Carolina statehouse."
Professor Brown is a living testament to his words of encouragement and getting to know one another, no matter their background or color. “There's so much that has been erased for the simple fact that people want to forget or coverup." From slavery to Tulsa's Black Market Massacre and now George Floyd, “the most important thing to gain from all of this is that everyone has a voice." Brown stands to his act of speaking out against injustice, even if it's not comfortable. “We are aware of our freedom of speech, so with that be heard if you see something wrong, voice your opinion. If you're unable to stop it with your hands, stop it with your voice. If you're unable to stop it with your voice, at least stop it with your heart."