“When I was growing up, I was taught in American history books
that Africa had no history and neither did I. That I was a savage
about whom the less said the better, who had been saved by
Europe and brought to America. Of course I believed it: those
were the only books there were.”
~ James Baldwin
WE ARE INVISIBLE
“Where are the Black people? Where are they - we? - and why aren’t our stories being told as part of the history of America?” Adam P. Kennedy has asked this very question for the better part of 40 years, ever since he was part of the american educational system.
“Why aren’t we, Blacks, African Americans, everywhere in the history books?,” he asks, continuing his refrain. “Why aren’t our contributions, discoveries and achievements depicted side-by-side with their more universally known and celebrated white counterparts?” This question has been purposefully poking Adam for decades, pushing, prodding pleading for an answer that sadly has until this point gone unanswered.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the parents and experiences I have had, some in the spotlight of history, and brilliant, beautiful, powerful and loving Black people have always been right there, front and center in my life,” states Adam recalling his youth. “Everybody should know these people, and deserve to know these people, their stories and contributions, too. We have to address that and in doing so, fix it, and we can.”
Addressing these and more questions about the underrepresentation of Black people in both the books that teach our history and the celluloid that canonizes Americana is the stimulus that necessitated The Black Experience, the newest offering from Adam’s company, Chronicling Greatness.
“After creating content for predominantly African American and young audiences for parts of four decades, I’m saddened to say that there hasn’t been a more inclusive and positive depiction of the importance and intrinsic roles Black people in America have played since this country was founded by now,” adds Alphonse McCullough, Adam’s friend and frequent collaborator for more than thirty years.
Alphonse is TBE’s Executive Editor/Content Creator, and his perspective is in concert with his partner’s. “The African Americans who have helped to build this country are grossly underrepresented in primary and secondary education curricula, as well as the machinations and manifestations of media,” he continues, “and when we are seen we're depicted negatively by mainstream media, as if there’s only one kind of Black person in America.”
“The scientists, doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers, politicians and activists who are the building blocks of the structure that serves all Americans all deserve to be recognized and have their stories widely shared,” he states. “They deserve to be a known part of this nation’s story. We at The Black Experience are doing that. We do it for the love and respect of these people.”
The Black Experience is the passion project of Adam P. Kennedy, writer, historian, publisher and journalist, the culmination of a lifetime of experiencing and witnessing Black Excellence from a front row seat. “Adam has a unique life experience,” says Alphonse. “Having been born in Italy, raised in London and New York City and growing up amidst Broadway royalty, as well as American diplomatic, civic and philanthropic trailblazers. Adam has traveled to Africa and Europe every decade since the 1960’s, except one, since he was six.”
He’s met and dined with history makers like Desmond Tutu, James Earl Jones, Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis, Reginald F. Lewis, Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., Seyni Kountché, President of Niger, Alex Haley, Edward Albee, Micheal Khan, Joseph Papp, Alfred Atherton Jr., United States Ambassador to Egypt among numerous others. He heard their stories of marginalization, struggle, triumph and achievement and was impacted from these experiences. So, it’s a natural progression for him to want to share these and other stories with Americans, all Americans regardless of their color. By making sure these stories are presented to everyone, regardless of race or color, we can begin to combat the misrepresentation and dearth of depiction of positive stories of Black Americans in everyday mainstream media.
DARKNESS TO DAWN
The quote that we opened with was from the writer/activist/philosopher, James Baldwin:
he made that statement almost sixty years ago.
That we’re still facing the same conditions is beyond sad, it is enough to elicit pangs of the deepest despair. But instead of being despondent, Chronicling Greatness is taking action to educate and empower the youth and everyone by ensuring they know our stories.
“I see The Black Experience as an opportunity to combat the present climate and to take the documentation, preservation and distribution of our history to the next level,” says Alphonse.
“We are neither ignorant nor irrational,” he continues, of the hugeness of their undertaking. “We know all too well that we’re up against centuries of systemic racism and subjugation, of more than a century of polarized programming out of Hollywood on screens small and large, disguised as entertainment from minstrelsy to Birth of A Nation,” he cites. “But now, we have the methods, means and medium to make this mission of honest depiction of African Americans as fully realized, nuanced and real people - not just one sided, monolithic - but three dimensional, whole people, a reality. By deploying the youth they get to learn their families’ stories firsthand, and to see these wonderful examples in families and their communities, just like we did.”
“We’re not hopeful that we can have an impact on the current climate: we’re sure that we can,” says Adam. “Throughout history we’ve seen how one person, one moment, one action can coalesce individuals and energy and create change. We know that if we can share these stories with everybody - Black, White, Latino, Asian, everybody - we can change perceptions of the mainstream. Maybe, just maybe, if white kids and their parents see Black people as more than just the descendants of slaves they will have a newfound respect for what they’ve done to make this country what it is and what they continue to do.”
We’ll close as we started, with a quote from James Baldwin that crystallize not only our intentions but the same spirit that we people of The Darker Nation have always understood and risen to the challenge with the appropriate courage and fortitude: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”