By Dr. Felicia McGhee, Assistant Professor and Interim Department Head of Communication–
As a mom, I tell my 17-year-old son Thomas that he has to walk into his destiny. What do I mean by that? It means he has to reach his potential, and failing to do so is disappointing to the ancestors. It is not a mandate for just him, but for me as well.
Most people have heard of Rosa Parks. On Dec. 1, 1955, she refused to give up her seat to a white man. That action started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In that time, most black women worked as domestics for white families. They would cook the meals, clean the house, do laundry and watch the children. However, in order to get to those homes, they would need to ride the bus. In order to keep the boycott going, that meant walking in the rain and extreme heat. Can you imagine how much faith and determination that took? They were walking into their destiny, a destiny that we all benefit from.
In 2008, I began doctoral school at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. In order to go to school, I needed to commute from Chattanooga. On that first day of school, I had to drop my 2-year-old son off at daycare at 6:30a.m. and drive the one hour and 45 minutes to school. I cried all of the way there, but I was walking into my destiny.
During my last semester at UT, I took a Qualitative Methods course. One of our assignments was to conduct interviews. My colleagues interviewed undergraduate students, but I chose to go to Montgomery and interview participants of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. While there, I decided to pay a visit to the Alabama Department of Archives and read some of the newspaper articles during that time. As I went through the newspapers, I found a picture of the domestics walking to work, and in the picture was my grandmother, Mrs. Ella Lee Pettway!
The election of President Barack Obama was historic, as he was the first black president of the United States. I remember when reporters asked some of the black elders their thoughts about having a black president, their response was “not in my lifetime.” I know the ancestors had to be pleased with President Obama’s election.
However, Black History is not just for African-Americans but for everyone. For our students, faculty and staff, ask yourself, “Are you walking into your destiny?”