~ submitted by Joe Simmons (BCSOM)
There are three dates that everyone over the age of 25 should remember for the rest of their lives. I usually don’t do a lot of dates of importance but this one has been on my mind for a while so I decided to put it into perspective.
As an African American male in today’s society you tend to think of the days that you can remember without hesitation. You ask anyone who is over the age of 60 where they were when they found out that Martin Luther King or Malcolm X had passed away and they can tell you to the minute what they were doing.
Well my generation hasn’t had figures of that significance that we can relate to that hold that type of power. So I will try to put it into a perspective that I can relate to. My life is centered around history. That makes sense because I teach history at a local high school and college. So my first date of importance will center on the most recent historical event that changed the game for people of color in America.
The first is easy. January 20, 2009. You guessed it, the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama. “Yes We Can” littered the streets of Washington D.C. I stood in the freezing cold with more than 100 students both black and white as we witnessed history being made. I looked on in the sub 15 degree weather with tears in my eyes as Obama was sworn into office. I looked at people who were old and people who were barely able to stand up stare with joy in their heart of hearts as the ceremony took place. Everyone hugged and embraced and for a minute in history I forgot that any of us were different. That was probably the greatest moment in my life.
History is a big part of me but it doesn’t completely define my life. I consider myself a product of the hip hop generation. I grew up on RUN DMC, KRS ONE, Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Heavy D, and a host of hip hop stars. So the second date will center on Hip Hop.
The second date is September 29, 1998. Hip hop heads know that’s this is the greatest date ever in the history of hip hop. It is when the 5 greatest releases ever in a day came out. I remember running to the record store to buy the compact discs and the vinyl (yeah I used to spin back in the day too). On this date Outkast dropped Aquemini which was unprecedented at the time. This sound was unique in its own right. Then, Mos Def and Talib Kweli released Black Star. If you heard Black Star, you know what I mean. It was like a lesson in funk that we hadn’t had in hip hop in a long time. Then we had A Tribe Called Quest released The Love Movement. It was an album that anyone in any generation could vibe to. It had people in their 60s bouncing their heads up and down. Also on this date Brand Nubian Released The Foundation. No words can explain the importance this album had. It was playing in every car on the block. Didn’t matter who was driving, black, white, or Latino, everyone was rocking his joint. Finally on this date Jay Z released In My Life: Hard Knock Life Volume 2. This was the game changer. Everyone had to have this one. Jay was explicit in this joint and this is when he took his game to another level. In this one he was vintage Jay Z. Every rhyme seemed straight from the heart.
Ok you know I couldn’t finish this post without a significant day in sports. I have seen a lot of things in sports history, but there is only one moment in sports that I witnessed people without anything at stake cry like little babies.
The third is January 31, 1988. When Doug Williams won the Super Bowl XXII MVP he showcased skill that had not been seen at the position by an African American quarterback to date. Williams completed 18 of 29 passes for a Super Bowl record 340 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. Williams became the first player in Super Bowl history to pass for four touchdowns in a single quarter, and throw four in a half. Williams was also the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl. Being a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan it was the only time in my life that I have ever cheered for the Washington Redskins. See this date it wasn’t about my team, it was about the brotherhood team.
In my heart of hearts I knew that history was being made and I wanted to make sure that I witnessed it. I also wanted to make sure that the road was being paved for others to follow. Doug Williams paved the way for others to follow behind him in a league that didn’t take to kindly to quarterbacks of color.
These are the 3 dates of my lifetime. They may not compare to yours but if yours are more significant, I would like to hear them. You may convince me to change one of mine.