Emma E Houston 2018 Biography
Authored by Emma Houston, Salt Lake County Director of Diversity and Inclusion
I was raised in Dallas Texas. I attended all-Black Schools from elementary to high school. I lived in an all-black neighborhood. My family, friends, and neighbors all spoke the same language, “Blackness.” We danced to the same music, watched the same television programs, learned Easter speeches, played outside until the street lights came on, and our parents knew who our friends were and who their parents were.
My senior year in High School, my high school was integrated. Yes, white teachers and white students were bussed into Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School. Suddenly our world shifted. What we thought we knew about other cultures, practices and beliefs shifted dramatically. The change was evident when our new History teacher introduced himself; Mr. Jason Kristofferson and immediately told us to call him “Jason” because his last name was too difficult to pronounce. First culture clash, allowing children to refer to an adult by their first name. The second clash was implying that African American students could not grasp pronouncing his name correctly.
From an early onset, the African American culture has embraced titles and positions with dignity and pride. We as youth knew it was disrespectful to refer to any adult by their first name. Once the principal Mr. Woods learned of this request, he made an unannounced visit to our History classes and informed us collectively that we would refer to Mr. Kristofferson as Mr. Kristofferson. Mr. Jason Kristofferson did not last the school year at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School. Not sure what the reasons were but I believe Mr. Kristofferson thought he could provide a “better” way for students to interact without the formality of “titles,” then what our community could.
Celebrate with knowledge – To understand the significant impact of African American Black History we must first acknowledge the path we took to get where we are. The beginning of enslavement, the separation of families, and the miseducation of generations created opportunities for African Americans and Black people to tell our stories and craft our narratives to be reflective and truthful of our experiences.
Celebrating African American Black History Month honors the historic leaders of the Black Community. We all know about the heroes, Dred Scott, Soujourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman: Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X , Emmett Till, Little Rock Nine, and the freedom riders http://www.blackpast.org/aah/freedom-rides-1961, who endured harsh treatments and death to ensure future generations would led a better life. http://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/emma-e-houston
Today, African American Black leaders continue to rise and celebrate to help us be better stewards of the freedoms we’ve gained. Quite often at programs or events honoring civil right icons and the accomplishments of African American Blacks, the song “We Shall Overcome” is sung. Indicating that the struggle for full rights and freedoms have not been fully granted. I challenge us to sing a new song, produce a new narrative, highlight the Best of African American Black History & our Culture by creating awareness for not only African American and Black people but for all people. Celebrating African American Black History reminds us all that Black History Is OUR History.
For more information on African American Black History, visit http://www.BlackPast.org which is directed toward multiple audiences ranging from scholars and researchers to the general public.