We are making history

Published 10:16 pm Friday, February 16, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

History and hearts have been at the forefront of our news coverage. From Olympic hardware around the neck of our American athletes miles away to the hurtful massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida on Valentine’s Day to the heartache while mourning a beloved pastor right here at home, history has touched the hearts of many this past week. History is heartfelt because it is the reflection of real events at real times in real lives.

February is Black History Month. February is also American Heart Month. We also celebrate National Freedom Day on the first day of the month. We observe the contributions of history makers like Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12), Charles Darwin (Feb. 12), George Washington (Feb. 22), kid inventors (Feb. 17) and of course St. Valentine (Feb. 14).  It amuses me to think that the shortest month of the year is chock-full of so many notable days and persons to remember. Short in stature but big on impact is perhaps the meaning here.

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As I reflect on this week, I have considered the significance of history. I am a black woman, so this month is important to me. I have enjoyed reading the local black history facts shared in the Sunday edition of the Suffolk News-Herald. It has reminded me that history is local and all around us. We have no need to visit museums of history or make carved images for memorials. Our lives are tribute enough to those history makers who have gone before us.

History is impactful, which is why I think storytellers are such loved personalities. I had the pleasure of visiting King’s Fork Middle School to attend the presentation “Through The Eyes of A Friend” by the company Living Voices out of Seattle, Wash. Sixth-grade history students were in attendance as actress Elizabeth Rainer, of New York, gave a heartfelt and harrowing depiction of the experience of Holocaust victims based on “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Rainer plays Sara, the friend of young Anne. Sara’s story picks up where the diary left off when German soldiers discovered the Frank family hiding in the attic above Mr. Frank’s place of employment.

Mrs. Rainer shared the events at the end of Anne Frank’s life with a painful recount of the reality that we now know came to millions in prison camps. Anne succumbed to Hitler’s evil reign. Rainer’s character, Sara, wondered why she had survived the concentration camps but Anne had not. She stated, “Anne is a survivor, too, because her words live on through her diary.” The diary that documents Anne Frank’s life in hiding from 1942 to 1944 garnered her posthumous fame and is considered to be one of the most read books of all time even years after its publication in 1947. Rainer charged the youth in attendance along with me to live their lives with purpose to ensure that the atrocities of the Nazi regime never happen again. I believe this charge holds all human beings accountable whether Jew, black, poor or wealthy.

We are alive. History is being made in our living. We cannot let our living be in vain. Do not let the lives of those who have passed on before you be in vain. Let the life in your veins, given to you by the Life Giver, be a tribute to Him. Your life is a memorial to those who have gone before you and to those who will be your legacy in the future. Live like your future is looking to you now because it is.

Have you ever wondered what your ancestors would say to you if they were alive today? Wonder no more. Children today are reading your story just as they are reading “The Diary of Anne Frank.” They look in your face, reading your history just as I looked into Elizabeth Rainer’s acting knowing there was a purpose for her choosing to tell the story of the Holocaust. In her closing, she told us about her father who had been a medic in the military and served during the liberation of the Jews during World War II. Mrs. Rainer’s father died 10 years ago. She lives and tells the stories of those he served to freedom. Through her storytelling, he continues to liberate others to live free. It is no wonder the company is called “Living Voices.”

I charge you that February it is not just black history, belonging to black people. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is not Holocaust history, belonging only to the Jews and the Christian faith. Real events at real times in real lives are life history. It belongs to the living to create. Make your story one that is heartfelt and resonates with people to cause them to live purposefully, to love fully and to die empty. Tell your history well.

QuaWanna is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.