Mary F. Sanders
October 23, 2018
The ability of the ancients to engrave hieroglyphics on cavern walls, to write/etch on parchment/papyrus or as we do in modern day, write letters on plain or beautifully designed stationary. And though no longer a phenomenon to many, the capability to enter data into a computer and then convey messages via email, twitter, Face Book, snap chat, etc., is a monumental feat! As a result, the art of writing has been revolutionized. This process, known as writing, has provided a means to:
- preserve special memories
- preserve family histories that otherwise would be lost
- preserve secular and non-secular histories
- write books, poems and articles and
- hear and know the voice of God.
In today’s world, because of technology, family albums are no longer a popular method to maintain family pictures. One afternoon, I decided to dig-out my family album. Perhaps, it was the realization of the pending high school graduation of one of my great nephews that gave me the impetus because as I began look at the photos, I asked myself, where did the time go?
There is something warm and loving about being able to hold and touch each picture, an experience that is lacking when I view images from my photo gallery. As I slowly turned the pages, an envelope fell to the floor. An envelope that I recognized immediately; it contained notes that were written to me from several of my nieces and nephews when they were very young. Notes that were written on whatever their little hands could find, yellow paper, blue paper, white paper and strips of torn paper. I can still hear the excitement in their small high-pitched voices echoing as they tried to secretly write their expressions of love and affection for me. The word “love” was written in large letters with crayon surrounded by big red hearts. Some of these notes even included drawings of family members holding hands; stick figures of course. Happy Memories! Precious Memories! Memories that place a smile on my face!
In the United States of America, the history/culture/tradition of most African Americans (and other people of color) was not documented; it was ignored. Early census gathers did not register the name or any other information about the enslaved, except maybe their gender and approximate age. Thus, as a consequence, much has been lost. To add to this dilemma, many of the story tellers, oral historians in these families were sold; some were murdered by plantation owners or bounty hunters. So, as a result of separation, family historians did not have anyone to pass the family story. When family historians were murdered, the stories were buried with them. Also, unfortunately, many family histories have vanished because of the lack of interest by ensuing generations.
I believe that all of the reasons above describe my sketchy family history. It would be phenomenal if I could authenticate family lore, a story that was told to me by one my grandmother’s first cousins, Rose. According to Rose, their mutual grandmother, who would be my great, great grandmother, was captured and brought to America from Africa at the age of 11. No one knows if she was alone or other family members were captured also. Remarkably, she survived the treacherous voyage of the middle-passage. Confirmation of this story is almost impossible because written history is silent. Nevertheless, I am convinced that my great, great grandmother’s stamina is the source of my inner-strength and determination. It is embedded in my DNA.
The significance of documentation or the written word is indeed paramount! It is because of the written word that we have the ability to access information that would otherwise be unavailable. Libraries are filled with books that holds the history of worlds, civilizations; their rise and fall. It is from the written word that we learn of heroines and heroes in the human struggle. It is from the written word that we learn of discoveries and inventions of people who have made great contributions in medicine and science for the well-being of all. Some of these inventors are well- known, while others are not. Consequently, it is only via the written word that the significant contributions of obscure human beings are found. People such as Sarah Goode who invented the first folding cabinet bed, Jupiter Hammon, Poet Pioneer, the first black writer in America, Phillip B. Downing invented the street letter box, the predecessor of the mail box, Dr. Patricia Bath invented a method for removing cataract lenses that transformed eye surgery and Willie Johnson invented the egg beater. It is important to note that not only Hammon is African American, but all of the above are African Americans. The written word affords us the opportunity to know and enjoy the works of past artists; operas, plays, stories, poems and music! The written word fills the pages of newspapers and magazines; from these pages we are informed of local, state, national and international news. Community newspapers provides information of interest to specific neighborhoods. Last, but not least, written documentation preserves family histories, which helps to fulfill the innate desire within most to know who they are and from where did their ancestors migrate or for the enslaved to know the place from which their ancestors were captured.
The Holy Bible was written by inspiration from God. Without this written documentation, we would still be dependent on oral tradition. What a gift! The written Word allows every individual the privilege to read, to meditate and to discern the genesis of human beings, the earth and its content. It informs us of God’s expectations of the vertical and horizontal relationship between God and human beings and human beings toward human beings.
Jesus found inspiration and strength through quoting the written Word. When tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He said to Satan, it is written…(Matthew 4:4, 7 and 10). Likewise, we can also be inspired, encouraged and find strength and comfort in our times of trials and temptation by reading and speaking the Word to our situation. Most of all, the Word teaches us of the depth of God’s unconditional love and Christ giving himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor (Ephesians 5:2).
There are a number of examples which illustrates that God did not only dictate scripture but God was a writer as well. The ten commandments were written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18; 34:1) and a message was written by the fingers of a hand on the wall to Belshazzar (Daniel 5:5). God spoke directly to Moses to write these words…Exodus 34:27. God also told Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain upon the tables that he may run that reads it (Habakkuk 2:2). Likewise, many people today construct vision boards to plot their plan of action to hold themselves accountable so that they will stay on course.
The art of writing has been a means for me to express my thoughts by penning poems and short stories. Unfortunately, I did not save most of this work because writing was simply a way for me to release…. Writing is also a means to document dreams that come to me as I sleep. Currently, I am writing a book to wrestle with the origin and continued effort to maintain the subjugation of women, as well as ways to change the narrative.
One of my greatest ambitions is to discover and document my family’s story for the present and future generations.