As the year nears an end and a new year prepares to begin, this is a time to pause and reflect. November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the God-given rights we have, those we must protect and the voices of our ancestors. Each presidential election cycle happening the month we celebrate Native American heritage should cause us all to reflect on heritage, the land we occupy and the sacrifices and blood of those who came before us.
I had the privilege of having a genealogist study my life in the United States and share some of my history as part of a project in Topeka in which four leaders of different ethnic backgrounds were studied. I learned we are more alike than different.
While not a surprise, like most African Americans, the dreaded truth of slavery and the names of slave owners confronted me in the genealogy project. In my case, a slave owner named Samuel L. Montgomery from Mississippi is one of the many names in my history explaining why the rainbow of bright colors appears on the maternal side of my family. Confronting that led to a range of emotions that upset and stirred my spirit.
However, I also learned of the monument that stands today celebrating members of my family who fought in wars for my freedom. I viewed the handwriting of my family members who learned to read and write in the early 1800s, despite enslavement. The future was transformed because of the giants whose shoulders we stand on who chose to go to war and fight victoriously for us.
We are in a revolution of modern times. We must choose to protect and sacrifice for those we may never meet whose future depends on how we respond to our reality right now. As we move through a pandemic and a new season, I am grateful for another opportunity to serve with many of you on the front lines of creating a more just world.
We all stand on the shoulders of true giants of empowered, fearless people and we must face what falsely appears to be giants in front of us who are ready to fall. This is our time! Against the giants disguised as systemic racism, the giants disguised as forces to intimidate others, stand firm, prepare and strategically act in ways that protect, serve and uplift.
Let this year conclude with a commitment to peace, and let the new one begin on the firm foundation of continued love, sacrifice and a willingness to be divinely unified with one purpose to improve the spaces we get the privilege to occupy, knowing those who come after us will be relying on our work right now.
We all stand on the shoulders of giants and have an opportunity right now to make history and transform the future. I am reminded how the choices of my ancestors determined the future I am living right now. Their choice to learn to read and write when it was not allowed led to the many educators in my family today. Our choices will dictate the future, so choose how you use this limited time wisely.
The generations ahead will look back on our work. What do you want them to see? I want them to see a vision of love and unity from the many true giants dressed as the men and women in Missouri and in Kansas who choose to make a difference and be the shoulders on which the future generations stand.
Tiffany Anderson is superintendent of schools in Topeka, Kansas and the former superintendent of the Jennings School District.