To my beautiful, brilliant Black daughters:
I have so many hopes and dreams for you, that if I tried to say them all, they would run longer than the entire Harry Potter series!
My hopes for you, my two beautiful Black girls, are so simple and yet also entirely grandiose. My dreams for you, beautiful Black girls, are that you are free to be whoever you want to be.
If you only get one lesson from me, your mother, let it be this: Your history didn’t start with slavery, and White people’s history didn’t start in the United States of America.
As your Black parents, your father and I are teaching you our viewpoint. Our Black culture begins with the beginning of humans.
In fact, the first humans lived in Africa. The first civilizations were in Africa. Our Christianity began in Africa. Africa is our homeland, and everything about Africa should bring you pride. Wear your African-ness, your Blackness with pride!
Your history, the history of the continent of civilization in Africa, starts in modern-day Sudan, around 6000 B.C. In fact, the first “empire” of two great nations happened between modern-day Egypt and modern-day Sudan. We will be sure you know those modern names are European names. We will teach you their deep-rooted African names: KMT and Meroe.
We are teaching you the history of Ancient Kemet, Meroe and Nubia.
You will learn of the African civilizations, the use of iron and tools in Africa, the resource riches of the African continent and the complicated, fascinating history of over 10,000 years of human civilization. Africa had kings and queens and warriors, slaves, artists, scientists, mathematicians, farmers, sailors, inventors, and musicians. You come from a beautifully talented Black culture.
As your mother, I have told you repeatedly that you are already free to be whoever you want to be. But as you approach adolescence and spend more time in schools than you do with your parents, you may begin to doubt that I told you the truth.
See, the books that you will read and the lessons you learn, will not validate your potential exactly as you are, beautiful, brilliant Black girls, from a legacy of beautiful, brilliant Black women.
You must learn their history. But you can take a broader perspective.
In formal school education, you will be exposed to a different viewpoint. Most school curricula in the United States are completely uninterested in young, brilliant Black girls like you learning about your culture, discovering multiple viewpoints or forming your own opinions.
In school, you will likely be inundated with stories of Europe: Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, the Medieval Period, Dark Ages, Industrial Revolution and the British Empire. Then you will be told all about the greatness of the United States of America that comes from the rich history of Europe.
This is something I cannot protect you from. You must learn their history. But remember, more than facts are at stake. In those classrooms, you are seeing only their viewpoint. You can take a broader perspective.
Our Blackness is beautiful, brilliant, and resilient.
Understand this, my beautiful, brilliant Black daughters. Your history is over 10,000 years old. The enslavement of Black people by White people is, at best, only 550 years of your history.
What makes you, and other beautiful, brilliant, Black children, different from many White children is you know that their history isn’t just fact — it is a viewpoint. And, that you, as a Black American, as a Black African, have completely different interpretations of history, of heroes, of scholars and who is “important.”
As your parent, I wish you were free, my beautiful, brilliant Black children to speak openly, honestly and without fear of who you are and your Black history. But it is not always safe for you to do that.
Talking about ancient Egypt being African can get you in trouble. Having a name that “sounds Black” can lose you a job. In fact, much of life will be devoted to protecting yourself from White people’s false views about who Black people are and what they have and can do.
But I promise you, with all that I am, I will tell you the truth, just as my mother told me the truth. Your ancestors who came to the Americas 500 years ago not only survived attempted physical and cultural genocide, they kept our Black African story, culture, and beauty alive.
Remember 550 years is nothing compared to over 10,000 years. Our last 550 years is not our whole story.
In fact, it is just a tiny piece of the story. No matter what White people think, or try to tell you about who you are as a Black person, we have a very different perspective.
As your parent, I swear on the lives of all our ancestors over our 10,000-year history, I will never let you forget how beautiful and brilliant you are, my Black daughters. Nor will I let you forget our beautiful, brilliant Black culture.
You are part of a beautiful, brilliant, Black people that have a history and presence throughout the world. 500 years? Ha! You are in but a minute of your 10,000-year story. Our Black is brilliant, beautiful and most importantly, resilient.
This piece originally appeared on EducationPost.org.
ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson writes on politics, education, current events and social justice