Black Lives, Situated in History

waves tossing and turning in a constant state of movement

For years I’ve carried an image around in my head that I constantly refer back to for inspiration when I think of Black history, racial justice, social change, and how Black lives, including my own, are situated within that history.

I once attempted to write those thoughts out in a note that I called “We Make Black History Everyday. We Rise, We Survive, We Fly”. I’m reposting it here with slight modifications.

Although Black History Month is recognized in February, we make Black History everyday.

Before me I see a sea of bodies, gathered together in a similar way to those who gathered at the national mall during the march on Washington in 1963.

pan up of national mall

Beneath the surface of this sea, I see layers upon layers of Black people. The folks at the bottom are using whatever they have to hold the people above them; both facing and pushing them upward. Those who are being held and pushed upwards, are also using whatever they have to support the people above them, and this pattern repeats. They are our predecessors.

under the surface of water gif

The surface of this sea of people is constantly moving, and just as waves in the ocean can rise up and come down, waves of people come up from the surface and return to it.

returning to the surface

The ones rising from the surface are the babies and the youth. Their upward trajectory is representative of our life journey where we are presented with obstacles and opportunities to grow, learn, and work in service to others.


And when we complete our journey and crash below the surface from which we came, we then become numbered among those who make up the supportive foundation of people, being held up by the ones who came before us, and holding up the lives of those to come after, with each new generation’s wave reaching higher than the last because of the work that was done by their predecessors on their behalf.

trying to find peace

When I’m feeling scared, stuck, or ineffective, this image reminds me that I am just one part of a larger continuum of folks who have committed themselves to working for progress, equity, and positive social change. It reminds me to stay consistent, and to be patient, because I’m committed to a purpose much larger, and much more important than how I might be feeling at the moment.


It reminds me to keep pushing so that when it’s time for me to crash below the surface of this sea of life, I’ll be able to say that what I’ve done can serve to move the next wave even further.

Although Black History Month is recognized in February, we make Black history everyday. We make ways where there are none, we’ve made waves where there were none.

We endure, we persevere, we rise, we survive, we fly in spite of living in a society that is constantly trying to erase us.

We take our place in the sea of life, and when we are gone, our legacies live on.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones


Subscribe to My Notebook

Enter your email address below and click subscribe to receive new updates by email.

Relando Thompkins-Jones

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

You may also like...

Share Your Thoughts: Leave A Comment

%d bloggers like this: