. . . The Failure of One May Cause Disaster
In the last few days, I have been interviewing the ten women who The Journal will be honoring at our annual Women of Achievement breakfast on April 28, 2012. With the exception of one of the women, they are all at least 80 years old. One is "only 78", another is 99 and will reach 100 a few months after the breakfast event.
Their lives are the base and root of Black survival and existence. They were all born at a time after the end of slavery but before the end of public policies and laws that approved of race discrimination in employment, housing, schools, voting, and generally, all public facilities and activities. They are the ultimate consumers of no taxation without representation.
Their lives are full of lessons on how they made a way out of no way. But they concentrated on three things that made survival possible - family, school, and church. These are the things that made them strong. The question for us now is how do we maintain what they have built? The thing that they had was an abiding belief that if they just did God's will, they would be delivered. And so they prayed for God's spirit to be with them as they travelled the journey up the rough side of that mountain that Dr. King said we would reach, even though he knew he would not get there with us.
These three things that our fore-parents concentrated on, family, school and church, would see them through, and as long as they were not abandoned, they knew collectively that everything would be OK.
First was family. They learned of how families had been split up by the ravages of slavery. They knew the lessons of keeping the family safe even when it meant that they had to bow down to White men, women, and children who treated them as property without souls or dignity. They had faith that God would provide justice and they would overcome, as the song says, "someday." They knew that it was better to bow down and wait for change to come, than end up floating in a river like Emmet Till. They knew it was better to bow down that day than be found hanging from a tree like thousands of Black men and women who represented the "strange fruit" of the Southern trees.
It was that spirit of caring for family based on faith in a God they could not see that got Black Folks over. They knew that if they kept the faith, prayed, believed and worked, their family would survive, someday! As we know, many that couldn't wait on change to come made their change by traveling North and West from the harsh hatred of Blacks in the South. I can only guess they hated us because we didn't want to accept being slaves and suffer another generation quietly. The hate is still there just not as rampant, even though the racist Republicans are representing their slaveholding White Supremacist fore-parents well as we currently see how they express their hatred for the first Black President of the United States.
By the way, I voted for President Barack Obama not just because he is Black. He's brilliant and he's compassionate and he was well trained at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard, and at the feet of Jeremiah Wright. Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly are Black, even though they probably wish they weren't, but they are not lovers of Black folk, nor brilliant nor "unbought or unbossed."
As for school, our honorees and their families believed in education. I was struck by the fair number of honorees whose grandfathers and fathers actually built Black schools with their own hands. They did it because the White folks didn't want or allow them to go to school. The grandfathers may have themselves been unschooled, but they wanted a better life for their offspring, and to get to that better life, they needed to be educated. Parents, it's still true. So do all you can do to get your kid educated. It's your kid. It has to be your sacrifice, or it may be your precious money to pay the lawyer or buy the gas money for Saturday visits at the prison.
As for Church, the Black Church has been the backbone of the struggle for equality in the Black community. Even with its sometimes flawed leaders and few blindly devoted members, the Black Church has been our salvation. Please note that for every greedy non-Christian acting preacher, there are probably two in the spirit of Dr. King who believe in and fear the lord want to do the right thing. If they believed and feared the Lord, they would do the right thing. When I was a little boy, I remember sitting on the porch in Oklahoma watching the rain and listening to the thunder and watching the lightning and saying to my mother, "God's work, Mama." That's who we are, God's work, and the pioneers who we will honor in April are just that, "GOD'S WORK". Let us honor them!
Black Parents, you must believe that your child is God's Work. Honor him/her and train them for success, getting help from the right school and right church. It's your job to find the right school. At least you don't have to build it with your own hands. Also find the right church and you will understand that everything is going to be okay, someday, in your child's life.