Dock Russell Jr.'s black history presentation at the Talladega public library Feb. 9 was very informative and pleasantly delivered (even though the subject matter, for most part, was not pleasant).
In approximately an hour and a half, Dock, formerly of Talladega, reminded or informed his audience of American history, from slavery to modern day. His presentation was titled, "Why Black History Matters."
According to Dock, history is for everyone, and black history helps us to understand each other, learn to get along with each other and that nobody is born a racist.
Dock's presentation also consisted of quotes from activists, pioneers, historians, slaves, black inventors and everyday citizens. The list of black inventors and contributors was lengthy, too. I was amazed to learn that I had never heard of several of the famous quotes, inventors, contributors or pioneers.
Quotes mentioned during Dock's presentation included: "I changed my thinking, it changed my mind;" "Your beliefs do not make you a better person, your behavior does;" and "The world is made for everyone, and some people need to understand that."
"Books are weapons;"
"Mental slavery is the worst kind of slavery;"
"The only thing worse than being blind is having vision but can't see;"
"A people without knowledge of their past is like a tree without roots;"
"Men only hate each other because they fear each other;"
"Make history, be counted;"
" Your vote is your voice;"
"Too many people undervalue who they are;"
"When you become lazy, it disrespects the ones that believe in you;"
"Teach and empower the youth;"
"You can have a master's degree and a Ph.D., but if you don't know your history, you are just a Negro with a master's degree and a Ph.D.;"
"With confidence, you have won before you get started;" and
"I will not stay silent so that you may stay comfortable."
My favorite quote was by Nelson Mandela: "Intelligence is a gift, wear it proudly." And to think, so many youths think it is not cool to show their intelligence. That’s voluntary dumbness/mental slavery! Slaves had to pretend to be dumb as a sack of rocks, but someone volunteering to be oppressed is beyond my reasoning!
Dock also sang, read poems and further discussed how we all have a part to play in making life the best it can be for all.
Dock "Too Sweet" Russell was born in Marion County and is one of 13 children born to Annie and Dock Russell Sr. He was reared in Talladega, attended Westside High, graduated from R.R. Moton High in Sycamore and attended A&M University in Huntsville.
After leaving college, Dock relocated to New Jersey. For many years, he was a regular at night clubs and performed under the name "Too Sweet." Later, he used his ability to entertain to motivate, educate and build character.
Dock is involved in the Kuumba Community Activity Program. Kuumba is Swahili and is defined as: "To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it."
My take on racism
I recall a place where blacks were 1 percent of the population and racism was at its ugliest.
The students were often harassed, and our minister urged the congregation to attend all public meetings related to solving/quieting the issue. However, the white population was only 4 percent, and they weren't exactly happy.
One day, I was in line at the post office, and suddenly, there was this loud noise. Everybody looked back to hear and see a white man kicking and shoving a huge box into the building.
He stopped in line behind me, and I asked him if he was going home. He replied, "I hate this place!" He was probably feeling the pinch of not being a majority and enjoying the privileges thereof. So funny!
On the other hand, I visited a place, too, where blacks showed extreme unity. They sat closely, rested their heads on each other's shoulders and shared meals.
And, here in Talladega, I once heard a co-worker say she didn't care what racists thought as long as they did not try to harm her, her loved ones or block her from obtaining employment or desired housing.
The above scenarios are reflections of how racism is truly handled: some try to solve the problem, some rebel, some find their own happy place and some don't care until it strikes home.
But, as Dock stated, "We all must do our part to promote harmony because we all are in this together."
I wish all racists would ask themselves, "What's so special about me that makes me superior?"
-- Maxine Beck writes about the African-American community in and around Talladega.