February in America is Black History Month and the theme for this year is Black Migration, which encourages everyone to contemplate the impact and effect of the movement of African Americans from southern farms to cities in the South, Northeast, Midwest and West, and to Europe. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. “this migration caused many major movements and historic events, such as the creation of jazz and ragtime, the Harlem Renaissance, the Garvey Movement, increased African American industrial workers and entrepreneurs, … and the Civil Rights Movement.”
It is also time to reflect on the peoples from the Caribbean, Africa. South America and Central America coming to US Cities and bringing new forms of music, exquisite foods and other cultural characteristics. Some came for education, others to improve their socio-economic position; some came to entertain and others to join families or to start families. Now they are all currently part of the fabric of the American society and contributing to its success and vibrancy.
Some migrants came here as recently as last week; others have roots that stretch back for centuries when their ancestors travelled here. Some came by foot, others by bus and train, still others flew in on a variety of planes, but all are now here living, mingling and creating a more diverse environment. Migration has brought new languages, dialects and innovations, vigor and diversity, challenges and opportunities for new creative ways of thinking and acting. New arrivals bring change, sometimes disruptive, but always fueling the economy in the areas where they choose to live.
The Seventh Day Adventist Community and Sligo Church have been the beneficiary of this type of migration. As a Christian Community, it has been refreshing to observe the mixture of cultures and the interaction of members from all parts of the world. Currently, with the unfortunate depiction of immigrants in negative terms in the public arena, we, Sligo members, can be the beacons of light showing the positive aspects of migration and integration by getting to know each other better and understanding our shared history.
We can acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of “New Americans” like Harold Baptiste, G. Ralph Thompson and Heather Dawn Small who have served as administrators in North America with distinction; educators like Adrian Westney; musicians such as Nevilla Ottley-Adjahoe; agronomist like Eton Codling and physicians like Lennox Westney. These and others that you may know have contributed their talents to America and the world.
As we consider migration this year we should remember the words of Langston Hughes.
“We are related—you and I.
You from the West Indies,
I from Kentucky.
We are related—you and I.
You from Africa,
I from these States.
We are brothers, you and I.”
Yes, we are brothers and sisters. More importantly we need to contemplate that we are all God’s children living here, but waiting to migrate to a better land, a heavenly land.