Education: A Way Out

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.)

Labor Day – Day Off

Today is Labor Day.  I’m glad to be off.  So, instead of 5 days, I have 4 days this week to pretend that my Blackness doesn’t matter in my workplace.

 I like the gospel song by Donald Lawrence, “Encourage Yourself” and especially the  lines:
Sometimes you have to encourage yourself.
Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test.
And no matter how you feel,
speak the word and you will be healed;
speak over yourself,
encourage yourself in the Lord.

Isn’t that what we do everyday, encourage ourselves. I don’t care what color Black you are, brown, light, next to bright, or coal Black, your day will be a challenge.  Over the years, you get use to the stress of walking into work giving co-workers hellos and waves as greetings.  And other Blacks know and respond, “…have a good day.”  In other words, if someone is let go today I hope it’s not one of us.  We are going to receive the whispering of “you are Black” in voices that pretend your color doesn’t matter because that’s the proper thing to do in the workplace.  Whether you are working in a mall store, working on Wall Street, or in an office environment – large or small, you will need to encourage yourself.  And they wonder why a lot of Black folks have high blood pressure.

We are great at hiding our pain and hurt from folks.  I believe sometimes we hide it so long that we start to believe we are ok too. Prejudice attitudes that could be generational or plain red-neck “I’m better than you because I’m white.” can ruin a workday.  Yes they are still around they haven’t disappeared as some would have you believe.  Especially, the talented tenth among us who are part of the corporation’s executive staff, who have picked up the sword to push the belief we are a nation of color.  They are spreading the hype that this nation is not Black or white.  Since, we have a Black president we are in a new era in this country. Supposedly, we are a nation of color and a nation in the post-racial era.  Bullshit!!