Richard Scott feels that when the system does not tell the truth about the black experience and the histories of other people of color that it falls on the shoulders of community members to tell the real truth.

“The history that has been written and has been passed down has been very selective,” Scott tells Madison365. “When you select certain truths, then you leave out other truths which can be construed as a lie by omission. Basically what we want to do is to promote this collective understanding of our untold past history.

“Once we understand the things that have been left out, we can include it in our own thinking and our own direction and our own goals in life and we can establish an action plan that can be implemented immediately,” he adds. “Once we start planting and replanting seeds of positivity, we can hopefully start eliminating those seeds of doubt and misunderstanding of who we are and what we did or didn’t do.”

Richard Scott
Richard Scott

With that in mind, Scott helped create a program called “The Mystery of Black History” in October of 2015. It’s a series of lectures, films, field trips and conversations that connect local events to the national, revealing the history, often hidden or suppressed, of African Americans in Wisconsin. The Mystery of Black History is offered in partnership with other organizations like the UW State Historical Society and the Urban League of Greater Madison.

“We try to bring a program that not only captures people’s attention, but will serve as a chance to enlighten them, educate them, encourage them, and give them an embodiment of what the untold history of what African Americans have contributed to the world achievements,” Scott says. “We wanted to do this to bring about a collective understanding of our past history as it relates to our current situations.”
The Mystery of Black History Program was an outgrowth of the Journey Mental Health’s UJIMA program treatment program. UJIMA staff member Pamela Soward was making a home visit when she discovered “Hidden Colors,” a documentary series about the real and untold history of people of color around the globe. Soward, Scott, Dr. Ruben Anthony Jr., Hedi Rudd, and Stephanie Bradley Wilson originally showed “Hidden Colors” at the Urban League and it attracted a decent-sized audience. The event was a success and the group decided they wanted to do it on a monthly basis.

“Basically what we did is take it out of a small group and bring it into the community at large,” Scott says. “Speaking with [Urban League of Greater Madison CEO] Dr. Ruben Anthony, he graciously told us that he would provide the space and whatever technical things and necessities we might need to make it go.”

The piloted program has been a hit and has featured numerous speakers and concepts throughout its run which takes place on every third Saturday of each month. The program has tackled topics like the history of Hip-Hop with DJ Pain and Shah Evans and the history of jazz with world-class saxophonist, flutist and educator Hanah Jon Taylor. One program, moderated by Anthony, showed how Vel Phillips rose to prominence as one of Wisconsin’s great civil rights activists, achieving an impressive lists of “firsts” as part of her legacy including the first African-American judge in Wisconsin and the first woman and African American in the nation elected to executive office in state government.

Hanah Jon Taylor
Hanah Jon Taylor

“The Mystery of Black History is interactive, so it gives the audience a chance to learn from the presenters but to also share their feelings,” Scott says.

The upcoming Mystery of Black History’s session this Saturday at the Urban League will focus on the after effects of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” and what needs to be done in order to break the “chains” of the past indignities. Soward, who is a clinical therapist in the UJIMA Program, will be the facilitator. She will share a powerful video presentation which will allow for audience reactions and responses to the presentation.

“The Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is a chain of the DNA that is brought down through the centuries to a lot of people in this country – not just African Americans – but white people, as well,” Scott says. “The whole concept of the slave mentality and the slave situation impacted a lot of people regardless of what ethnic background they were in.”

Dr. Joy DeGruy
Dr. Joy DeGruy

This Mystery of Black History session will delve into the work of educator and author Dr. Joy DeGruy, who coined the PTSS term 25 years ago to help explain the consequences of multi-generational oppression from centuries of chattel slavery and institutionalized racism, and to identify the resulting adaptive survival behaviors. She turned her study into the groundbreaking book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, published in 2005.

The Mystery of Black History has been gathering steam since it first started and Scott would love to see some new faces at this Saturday’s event. He believes that is an important and authentic way for the community to come together and discuss racial issues and to learn about the past.

“This was an effort to counteract the chameleon effect of the racial disparities reports in Madison. It seems like every decade they come out with a racial disparity report that tells us the same thing. I understand the statistics and the need to have that awareness,” Scott says. “But you can have awareness, but all I keep hearing is ‘Let’s sit down and have a conversation about it!’ and ‘Let’s have another committee!’ The school district has been having committees on this since I first came into the district in 1975.

“The Mystery of Black History is something that doesn’t cost anything to do,” he adds. “All we’re asking is that people that come out aren’t afraid to come out and learn what they didn’t know. And then maybe, just maybe, they will pass it on to their wives, husbands, kids, neighbors, and other community members.”

“The Mystery of Black History: The Chains in our DNA” is free and open to the public and will take place Saturday, Nov. 19, 5-7:30 p.m. at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park Street.