The Akan of West Africa have a proverb that beautifully illustrates the importance of remembering the legendary Dr. Dorothy Height: “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates to “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” Yet, what if you never knew enough to go back in the first place?
As inspiring as Black History Month can be, it is absurd to think that a history as complex and convoluted as that of black people could possibly be relegated to a matter of 28 (or 29) days. In that short amount of time, many a pioneer is overlooked or covered in such a shallow, archaic manner that what was initially intended as celebration and retrospection ultimately becomes inadequate cliché. As a result, the redundant portrayals of these individual’s portrayal’s and their roles in Black History make it understandably difficult for the younger generations to identify with their predecessors.
Well, to all of the young people out there reading this–have you ever been prematurely judged because of your race? How about your gender? Imagine getting accepted into your dream college, only to be turned away due to an unspoken quota of only two students of your racial background. Now, picture a world with no female DJs, no congresswomen, and no BLACK GIRLS ROCK. As absurd as this imaginary world may seem to you, this was the reality for a young Dr. Dorothy Height, who had been turned away from Barnard College in 1929.
I want to be remembered as someone who used herself and anything she could touch to work for justice and freedom…. I want to be remembered as one who tried. -Dr. Dorothy Height 
Last Tuesday, Dr. Dorothy Height passed away at 98 in Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. The outstanding legacy that she leaves behind should not become another ancient relic, only to be recovered and dusted off every February. No, just as Dr. Height relentlessly struggled for seemingly unattainable rights, people everywhere, particularly black women, ought to follow Dr. Heights lead and begin taking the initiative. Granted, the social and political climate in the US may not seem as dire as during the 60s and 70s, and so making a difference may seem all the more daunting and impossible, given that there is no current movement similar in influence and strength Civil Rights Movement. The key to remaining hopeful lies in baby steps. Why not try the following:
- Creating and following a book club focused on Africana scholars
- Volunteering for the social non-profit of your choice
- Setting up literacy classes with your friends
- Beginning a Big Brother/Big Sister program at your school
- Throwing monthly dinners to honor and remember those who fought and died for our rights
As long as you do not forget to look back and learn, you will be able to face the future as fearlessly as Dr. Dorothy Height.
How do you feel about the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height? How has she inspired you to make a difference?