Celebrating Black history

Letter to the Editor

Dear editor,

Amid my life of 59 years, I look back on my first memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was 7 years old when he was assassinated. I still see my grandmother, mom and aunties crying. I didn’t understand why they were weeping so much, over someone I’d never seen in our home!

But, there was the huge picture of him and John F. Kennedy on our wall. The eyes in that picture followed you wherever you moved. It was explained to me, that he meant a lot to many black and white Americans. But, it all started with Rosa Parks, inciting the Civil Rights Era for not giving up her seat to a white passenger on a bus.

People of color weren’t allowed to sit wherever they wanted, and she went to jail for standing up for many in 1955.

Blacks and whites worked together for change in restaurants by participating in sit-ins. They were met with anger, spat on, beaten and covered in condiments like a sandwich. It was overtime for people of color to be seen as human just as everyone else. This treatment, along with the Voting Rights Act made people start to think differently.

As time went on, many doors opened that changed how race was seen in America. Dr. King’s involvement was very important in those decisions. He had a dream that became reality, as we now cohabit in a world of many races.

I know there are many black people that deserve recognition for all their involvement and inventions. And I don’t say this lightly, as we are using their inventions to this day. Black History is more than name dropping, mentions of slavery and the inhumane treatment of our ancestors.

I want my grandkids to know and understand the world they live in now is totally different than the world their grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother were born in. I want to share with them great stories, so they can be proud of their ancestry.

Their great-great grandmother, Irene Reese Davis, was a housekeeper for a prominent family in Shelby County for over 30 years. She was instrumental in creating a special hot dog sauce for the well-known restaurant Dairy Queen.

And Reese Dr. of Alabaster is named from her mother, Goldie Williams Reese. Their great grandmother Bertha Davis Gaddis was among the first people of color to be employed in the 1960s at what is now Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

I want them to know their great grandfather James David Bolling was the first Black Deputy Sheriff of Bibb County, their aunt Vanessa Davis Adams was the first Black employee in the late 1970s at the first Bank of Alabaster.

As for me, I’ve shared with them about being among the first black kids to integrate the Shelby County School System.

I’ve shared so much more for there is so much Black History everywhere in Shelby County. We can celebrate Black History every day and not just in February.

We have approached a very pivotal time in history. Black People own restaurants now, we are doctors in hospitals all over America, we are principles at schools and professors at colleges. We own banks, large corporations and many other places of importance.

As I remember my ancestors, how they were treated in the old days as nonexistent, inhumane and not counted as important, I want to hug them and tell them I love them.

But most of all, I want to thank them.

I want to thank them for their suffering so that I, my grands and all people of color could have the freedom they deserve. Freedom of choice in what they will be in the future in a world where the color of their skin doesn’t decide who or what they should be.

I also would be amiss if I didn’t look back on 2020.

A year when black people became fearful to be black in America. Killed as in the old days from murder and brutality. In a world of freedom, in the land of the free and home of the brave.

I dedicate this Black History Month to all the families missing a loved one, whether from murders in 2020 or COVID-19.

Black History is about being equal, and that should have always been a right, not a fight. So, as we embark on another February, let’s use Dr. King’s dream, our ancestors’ dreams, our lost loved ones’ dreams. As we stand on their shoulders, we will make them proud, along with world peace instead of division.

For God says, we are all a chosen generation! A royal priesthood and a holy nation. Blessings to you all.

Sandra Cohill,

Shelby County