Other cultures, such as the Roma (Gypsies), the Inuit (Eskimos) and the Jews, use storytelling to empower their people. In fact, the Jews simply refuse to forget. Jewish tradition embraces their struggles as well as their victories. As a result, many Jews develop a sense of pride in themselves and their culture from an early age.

A few weeks ago, I flew to Chicago for my uncle's funeral. When I arrived at the house, I stood on the front porch listening to the symphony of loud voices inside. Nobody could hear the doorbell ring, so I opened the door and stepped into a room filled with laughter that nearly knocked me back out into the cold Chicago night. James Jones had died, yet the night before the funeral his family and friends were sitting around the dining room table telling stories -- stories that lifted them out of their grief and celebrated a life.

I encourage our young people to discover our history and embrace our culture -- the good and the bad -- because all of it inspires and strengthens. Whoever said, "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" was right. We must witness and tell the stories of our people.

We must remember who we are and refuse to forget our survivors of bondage. Because they lived, we live.


Freedom 'Flight': an excerpt

Ezra: There was these two best friends -- Achilles and Thomas. When the Elders was teaching them everything they knew about how to live in the wild, Achilles listened and learned. But Thomas couldn't keep his mind set on anything other than food.

A time came when Achilles wanted to make a run for the north, to freedom. 'Course he asked Thomas to come with him. They both knew it would be a very hard journey. So they made a promise to each other, swearin'

Ezra/Oh Beah: To stick together and help each other no matter what.

Ezra: 'Cause that's what friends do.

Now, Achilles had a plan. He'd use all the wisdom of the Elders.

The two friends took off in the middle of the night. But first, they rubbed hot peppers on the bottoms of their feet. Why?

Ezra/Oh Beah: To throw the hounds off their trail.

Ezra: They traveled at night. Why?

Ezra/Oh Beah: So the paddyrollers couldn't see them.

Ezra: And whenever they heard those hounds hollering, that's when they'd come out and run along the river. After a few days, Thomas got so powerful hungry he was ready to give hisself up -- just to get some real food.

Once again, Achilles came up with a plan. He killed some swamp rabbits and Thomas caught a couple of fish. Then they made a big fire and went off about half a mile down the path. They hid in the thickets while they waited for the fire to burn down to coals. Why?

Ezra/Oh Beah: Just in case someone saw the fire.

Ezra: When they saw the path was clear, then they went back and bakes them some fish and rabbit. Oh boy! They gobbled it down in a hurry and went on their way towards freedom.

What they didn't eat, Achilles left behind. Just like the Elders told them. Don't want the scent of the meat on you, don't you know.