Sunday, May 5, 2008

The Power of Family Oral History – April 19, 2008

Although I just started this yesterday, I’ve decided to backdate this entry to last Saturday, April 12, 2008. That’s when my family had it’s 3rd Annual Black History Party. The main reason I’m doing this is because of the life lesson that experience taught me. That lesson was the power of family oral history.

For a little background, my 8-yr old niece, Natalie, has been very interested in black history since she could comprehend the subject. As a result, her parents have been obliged to feed her curiosity through books, trips and everyday discussions. As a result of the fascinating stories this interest has uncovered, three years ago, our family started having these black history parties. The typical format is to set a topic that selected attendees would speak on in the hopes of sparking discussion and enlightenment among the guest. This year, the topic was education. I spoke on “When the Naval Academy Gave Up Jim Crow”, others spoke on Historically Black Colleges & Universities and African American Fraternities and Sororities. Of particular note to me personally was the discussion led by my father on the struggle for educational equality in the deep south during the 1960’s. He actually played a part in the operational activities of the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM) in Biloxi and Gulfport, and broadened the discussion through references to Polly Greenberg’s THE DEVIL HAS SLIPPERY SHOES.

Now this is where the Six Degrees of Separation theory proves itself:

  • I am the son of Gilbert Jackson …
  • In the mid-60’s, my father Gilbert worked as an activist in the Child Development Group of Mississippi and knew Marian Wright Edelman ……
  • During the same time period,Marian Wright Edelman, the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi State Bar Association, served as a lawyer for the CDGM. Edelman later in 1973, founded the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) ….
  • Marian Edelman is “a friend and intellectual soul mate” to former First Lady and current Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, who served as chairman of the CDF !
  • In 1992, Edelman and the CDF began its “No Child Left Behind” campaign, famously championed by President George W. Bush only three days after taking office in January 2001 !!

So I’m currently…..

  • 3 degrees from one possible future President of the United States – Hillary Clinton…
  • 4 degrees from the other two contenders – Barack Obama and John McCain…
  • 3 degrees from the current President of the United States – George W. Bush…
  • 4 degrees from former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush ….
  • and still have up to two degrees left to reach anyone else in the world !!!!!!!!!

Bottom line – I would never have known this without my father passing his oral history to us all during the family African American History Party.

If you are interested in contributing to America’s Oral History, please participate in National Public Radios’s PR’s StoryCorps project.

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