Gregory Harden

Time never looks back. Time goes forward. So to see how we got here today, you have to look back. They tell us, “You have no past. You have no accomplishments. You didn’t contribute.” Our history is faded but it is still here.

Someone once told me that the beauty of a tree is what you see and the strength of that tree is what you don’t see. Every place in America where there are black people, are untold stories of how we have made a difference. It is not just history it’s our story. We came here at the beginning. We’re part of all of this and we will continue to be a part of all of this. Our places are solid.

I remember while working at the shipyard, to keep people removed from the process of leadership they’d hoard the knowledge. When I started, I would hear the old guys, the old black men in particular, talk about how their white counterparts would hold the blueprints to the ships. They would tell the black people, “Go get this. Go get that.” And while we were gone, they’d look at the blueprints. It was as if they had all of this knowledge, but really, all they had were blueprints. It takes me back to brother James Brown, “I don’t need nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door. I’ll get it myself.”

I think the lack of communication is one of the things that has held us back. The words we say echo. When I worked at the San Francisco shipyard as a young man, the old guys used to always say to me, “Young man, just keep getting up in the morning and you’ll be amazed at how far you can go. Keep pushing, keep struggling, and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t, when you can. You have the self-confidence to go forward.” I’ll never forget that.

We’re all here as a result of them old folks and they’re here as a result of the old folks that came before them. It’s amazing when you think of life’s process. My dad and mom created me. My grandfather and grandmother on my dad’s side created him. You start going back and back and the connection and the stories are just really amazing. All of the folks in this struggle of life, who brought us to where we are now—those unnamed people—thinking of them is what moves and shakes me.

Gregory Harden
Musician, Youth Worker, Audiopharmacy Producer & Seventh Native American Generation