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It’s not often that you’re asked to share your life story. I wasÂ honored and humbled to participate in a video oral history this week for our modern-day griot, The HistoryMakers. Visit their website (www.thehistorymaker.com) and you’ll find an amazing roster of African American achievers.
DuringÂ my in-depth, three-hour interview, IÂ reflectedÂ on my upbringing; career at BLACK ENTERPRISE; role inÂ creating Milestone Media, a comic book company that spawned Static Shock and a universe of other multiculturalÂ characters; and the advancement of African Americans over the past three decades. ItÂ brought backÂ events tucked away inÂ my memory banks for years.
One ofÂ the most valuable aspects of this experience, however, wasÂ reinforcement thatÂ African Americans mustÂ continue to share ourÂ rich narrativeÂ withÂ the world.Â For one, we must ensure our history is never marginalized.Â Moreover, it’s critical for African AmericanÂ youth to hearÂ our stories so they canÂ identify with real-life heroesÂ whoÂ overcame adversityÂ to makeÂ significant contributions inÂ business, politics, medicine,Â technology and other fields. Such exposureÂ will open their minds toÂ embrace infinite possibilities.
For 20 years, this thrust has beenÂ a large part of the mission ofÂ Julieanna Richardson,Â HistoryMaker’s passionate, energetic founder and executive director. Based in Chicago, her non-profit research and educational institution is “committed to preserving on videotape and making widely accessible the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. Through the media and a series of user-friendly products, services and events, The HistoryMakers enlightens, entertains and educates the public, helping to refashion a more inclusive record of American history.”
Richardson receivedÂ our 2014 Legacy AwardÂ at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit – along with civil rights activist Myrlie Evers, acclaimed actress Cicely Tyson, BE 100s CEO Valerie Daniels Carter and Barbara Graves Award recipientÂ Marian Wright Edelman – as a result ofÂ building theÂ nation’s largest archive of African American oral history -Â aÂ 9,000-hour collection ofÂ first-person interviews. To achieve this feat, the HistoryMakers’ team has traveled to more than 80Â US cities and countries to capture suchÂ testimonies. Its digital archive has been accessedÂ by users in more than 51 countries. The organizationÂ also holds teacher training institutes and fellowship programs for professionals interested in maintaining African American archives.
Before offering my oral history, IÂ asked Richardson about her latest milestone: TransferringÂ HistoryMakers’ pricelessÂ oral historiesÂ to the Library ofÂ Congress.Â She beamed: “I’m excited. Now, we have the slave narratives and contemporary stories under one roof.”
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