It’s Black History Month and one of the main aspects it’s known for is showcasing the great figures of the past. It’s a time to look back at the people who changed the world from before and how they affect our future. The names we hear commonly are people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but the past can be as early as yesterday and someone making great changes for our future can be right next door – or even on our campus!
In an office filled with books that touch the ceiling, I sit in a chair by her desk. This office, in Richards Hall on Washington Adventist University’s campus, breathes historic knowledge – especially in black history! There is buzzing energy about her, one that can make anyone smile and the excitement to hear her thoughts on this month brings high energy in the room.
“Black History is American History.” I hear her say in a confident tone; this voice could be none other then WAU’s very own, Dr. Joan Francis. She explains how black history should be recognized throughout the year but this month is important because it places an emphasis on something that has been suppressed for so long.
Dr. Francis believes that African Americans have been suppressed for generations and it’s still an issue. She often remembers times she was suppressed, a lot stemming from back in school, when teachers would not give her the grade she deserved, “but I pressed forward!” She exclaimed, “You have to remember to keep going forward. That’s my advice on how I got through.” She also believes that, in the balance of pressing on, to have a strong support system. Till this day she has a solid set of people to keep her grounded.
Those words of wisdom were inspiring to me and so was her strength. Through the ups and downs, starting off life in Barbados and coming to WAU in 2002, Dr. Joan Francis never stopped fighting and still is. She teaches classes on campus about black history and her love for all of history, the good and the bad, really brings out a woman that is whole in future and past.
I concluded our discussion by asking Dr. Francis what her favorite writings in black history were, and though there were many, the one that stuck out the most was Mary Mcleod Bethune’s Last Will and Testament. I’ll end with a quote from this article, a favorite piece of Dr. Francis:
“ I LEAVE YOU LOVE. Love builds. It is positive and helpful. It is more beneficial than hate. Injuries quickly forgotten quickly pass away. Personally and racially, our enemies must be forgiven. Our aim must be to create a world of fellowship and justice where no man’s skin, color or religion, is held against him. “Love thy neighbor” is a precept which could transform the world if it were universally practiced. It connotes brotherhood and, to me, brotherhood of man is the noblest concept in all human relations. Loving your neighbor means being interracial, inter religious and international.” – MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, noted African American educator and mentor
Click HERE to read full Mary Mcleod Bethune’s Last Will and Testament