ITTA BENA, Miss.— Judge Latrice A. Westbrooks left a charge to the Mississippi Valley State University community Thursday to not only learn about history but embrace it.
“When I was thinking about today’s theme, ‘Heritage and Horizons: Embracing Our Cultural History While Establishing Cultural Change’, I thought it was two-fold. Yes, we have to embrace our cultural history, but we also have to establish a cultural change,” said Westbrooks as she began her keynote address during MVSU’s annual Martin Luther King Jr., Black History Convocation.
Westbrooks, who currently serves on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, then discussed the importance of history and the insight it can provide about today’s cultural challenges.
“In order to really engage in effective cultural change, you must first understand your cultural history and embrace it,” she said to students in attendance. It’s not enough to know it, you must embrace it.”
Westbrooks urged students to realize the greatness that is within them.
“We come from greatness; we are greatness. To embrace our cultural history, I challenge you to go back thousands of years, but I also challenge you to look at the history that is right here in America.”
Westbrook contended that many individuals don’t understand history’s significance, particularly African American history.
“We honor Martin Luther King, Jr. every year; we get a day off for his birthday but do we actually understand that he carried us?” said Westbrooks.
“If it had not been for their sacrifices and their willingness to face death, many of us would not be where we are today or have the privileges and rights that we enjoy today,” she added.
Westbrooks asked those in attendance to take a moment to consider the gravity of the sacrifices given by our ancestors.
“Would you have been willing to do it? Would you have been willing to face dogs and get bitten? Would you have been willing to face bullets, get shot or killed and never see your family again?” she asked.
While many fault today’s generation for not being knowledgeable about historical events and figures, Westbrooks said you can’t blame them alone.
“Somewhere along the way, we stopped teaching Black History to our children,” she said.
Westbrooks shared that she recently presented during a school’s Career Day event and only one student out of four classes could identify Thurgood Marshall. She noted that while the students not knowing of such an important historical figure was an issue, the fact that an adult, teacher or parent didn’t take the time to teach it to them was an even greater one.
Westbrooks closed by charging students to do their own research and adults to ensure that they are passing on the knowledge.
“How can we expect young people to carry on a legacy that they know nothing about—that they have not been taught about or even challenged to go find out about?” she said.