My family has always preached education. In my youth, the big deal was get your high school diploma. My mother and father had their high school diploma. I noticed amongst my relatives, my aunts and uncles, they pushed their kids to do well in school in hopes of a scholarship for college. So, their goal was college and mine was get the high school diploma and find a job. I was an ugly acting teenager and my mother just wanted me out of her house. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t push us towards college even-though my brother was gifted. All kinds of programs wanted him to participate. Programs like upward bound, Junior Achievement and honors society. My mother ignored those programs and had no interest in education beyond high school for us. I chalked this up to poverty that put us at-risk. The term at-risk refers to children who are likely to fail in school or in life because of their life’s social circumstances. It does not appear that any one single factor places a child at-risk. Rather, when more than one factor is present, there is a compounding effect and the likelihood for failure increases significantly. Poverty is considered a major at-risk factor (Leroy & Symes, 2001). My mother’s only concern was putting food on the table, affording winter clothing and, keeping a roof over our heads because we were poor. How did my mother not get the same message her siblings did, education is a way out.
It breaks my heart that our youth do not realize how fortunate they are to receive a free education (public) and opportunities to further their education beyond high school. The latest statistics show our youth, Black males in particular, in deep trouble. Our male youths have a high rate of death, incarceration and unemployment. As a Black mother, I suspect there is a conspiracy against Black males in general. I find it absurd the amount of guns our youth can get their hands on. I ask a 40 year old white man; at the age of 15 could he get his hands on a gun. His answer was yes his father’s gun. That’s not the answer for some young Black males because a lot of their homes are single parent homes where mom doesn’t have one. One mother told me her 15 year old son came home with a gun and she took it off him and he left to return with another one. Young Black males are killing each other at an unbelievable rate. A Judge told a Black mother of a 14 year old, “I know you got your hands full just trying to keep him alive.”
Then there are the Bill Cosby’s of the world who believe the lower wrung is not doing their part to uplift the race. I’m sorry Cosby is talking to the choir. The very folks that are his audience are not the folks who need to hear his message. And, is it too late for the message? The poverty programs that followed the civil rights movement helped a lot of folks get on their feet. Once they did get on their feet, some folks left the community and took the opportunity to make a difference with them. Do you remember President Johnson’s Great Society and poverty programs? The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 signed by President Johnson gave us a great boost in areas of health, education, and general welfare of the impoverished. Although most of the initiatives in the Act have since been modified, weakened, or altogether rolled back, its remaining programs include Head Start and that recently took a hit economically and Job Corps. Were we ready as a people to continue the strides made in the late 60’s and early 70’s? After the centuries of slavery and being told we are less than human, I think Cosby expects a lot from a race that are beaten down and their history being untold because it’s embarrassing and guilt- ridden to the powers that be.
Sankofa. (We should learn from the past and move forward into the future.)