Your history book arrives weekly

Ersula Odom, letter

Dear Editor:

It is painful for African Americans when we realize we have been left out or written out of books and museums that tell the stories of the very communities we live and helped to build. We notice when we are not there. However, while we are waiting to be included, there is something any of us can do. We can collect tomorrow’s history today because it arrives every week in our local African-American newspapers and/or magazines.

Try this: every time these publications report “a first,” clip and save it. A few years from now, your clipping becomes historic. Before you know it, you have documented a decade of black history.

Frankly, I was surprised I found a couple of firsts in just a few minutes within the clippings I was processing. I learned from the Florida Sentinel Bulletin that in June 2016, USF just graduated their first black salutatorian and first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in Applied Physics, Cristen Thomas and Jasmine A. Oliver, M.S., respectively. These articles are now a part of my “Local Firsts” collection.

We can build own history books. Do you love sports? Collect information on when records are broken. Collect highlights on local quarterbacks or the unsung heroes who wrap their ankles before the game – you may have to write that story. Be sure to note the date and publication where the article appeared. If you don’t, you will wish you had.

Black publications, like the rest of the country, are packed with local and national black history during Black History Month. Twenty-eight, and sometimes, 29 days in February are simply not enough. As the author of “African Americans of Tampa,” I celebrate black history every week.

To be clear, I clip articles from all sources. However, none are as rich with black history as the black newspaper you have in your hands or reading online.

Personally, I love the original, physical copy. No one stands between you and your future access to the information, as you have chosen to collect it. I started a scrapbook in high school. When I scan through these old collections, I realize how our minds turn life into a series of “sound bites.” Oh, the things we forget!

Having the article minimizes the effect of our sound bite memories. Having the physical clipping can be the evidence needed to inspire online research or a dig through library archives. Having the original relic allows you to read the information written in the vernacular of the time, as politically incorrect as it may be.

Full disclosure, I have either appeared in or written for these publications at one point in my life, so I feel a personal sense of gratitude to them. In the Tampa Bay area, we have several: The Florida Sentinel, The Weekly Challenger, St. Pete Bulletin, The Florida Currier and The Power Broker magazine. If you have such a publication in your area, pause and think of how valuable it is to you and your legacy.

Ersula Odom is a legacy writer with Sula Too LLC. For additional information, visit www.sulatoo.com.

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