During Black History Month, there is, understandably, a great deal of focus placed on the folks who risked their lives (and, in some cases, lost them) in the fight for the civil rights of their fellow Black Americans. Growing up, however, I never heard about Bayard Rustin and his incredible legacy of standing up for marginalized people, both here in the U.S. and abroad.
Dispatches From the Internets
A few weeks back, Marcy Sutton shared a slide deck by Tanya Reilly with me. The talk was “Being Glue” and it discussed the incredibly important (and shamefully undervalued) role of being the “glue” that holds a team together and makes them successful. That talk was concerned with technical teams, but this role is universal to any organization, collaboration, or project. In many ways, Anna Arnold Hedgeman was glue for the civil rights movement and I don’t think she gets enough credit for it.
Few people in hip-hop command as much respect as Chuck D. But unlike many who’ve achieved his level of critical and commercial success, Chuck D has never stopped fighting for others. And he’s challenged me to do my part.
Have you ever heard the name Alan Emtage? Probably not. He didn’t start a nearly trillion-dollar company. He isn’t digging massive tunnels under cities. His pet project isn’t putting people on Mars. But he wrote the first search engine, way back in 1990. The thing is, he doesn’t brag about this accomplishment.
I hadn’t heard about Thomas Jennings until recently, but his story is a pretty impressive one. Did you know he invented dry cleaning? Yeah, a white man is often credited with the invention of modern dry cleaning, but Thomas Jennings invented the “dry scouring” technique that gave birth to modern dry cleaning. He also successfully patented the idea, becoming the first black man to be awarded a patent for his invention. In 1821, a full 42 years before the Emancipation Proclamation!
We lost an amazing voice and an amazing human being when Aretha Franklin died last year. Countless articles have been written about the positive impact she’s had on the struggles for both Civil Rights and Native American rights. Apart from her amazing voice and presence, the thing I will remember most about Aretha is her purse.
While the history of slavery in America was covered in my schooling, that education was largely superficial. I do have vivid memories of learning about Harriet Tubman and the “underground railroad” that helped smuggle slaves out of the slave-owning Confederacy into freedom (such as it was) in the United States and Canada during the Civil War. What I didn’t know is that there is so much more to Harriet Tubman. She was the first woman to lead a U.S. military expedition and she was a spy (and recruiter) for the Union army!
Growing up, I was a casual viewer of the various Star Trek series, but was never a huge fan. Sure, I had a passing familiarity with LeVar Burton’s character, Geordi La Forge, on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but to me he will always be the host of Reading Rainbow. And I’m no alone. Millions of late GenX-ers (like me) and young Millennials grew up watching and learning from his PBS show.
Before the January 28th episode of The Nod dropped, I’ll be honest, I had absolutely no idea who Father Divine—a black man who claimed to be God—was. You should definitely listen to the episode—it’s fascinating—but I wanted to take a moment to share a few pieces of Father Divine’s story that really stuck out to me.