What if... Black people could choose their own teachers and their own heroes?
I saw this headline recently, and it stirred a strong emotion within me that was a combination frustration, anger, despair and sadness. Here is the complete question:
"What if Black people could choose their own teachers and their own heroes? What if Black people could focus on finance and institution-building rather than sports and entertainment? What if Black people taught their children about their history and culture rather than the distractions and diversions of our society?"
The Black Star Project
There was a time in our history when this is exactly what we did. How did we forget? How did we lose our way?
- There was a time when we chose our own teachers and heroes:
- Our schools were named after Frederick Douglass; and Paul Lawrence Dunbar; and Carter G. Woodson; and Robert Russa Moton; and Maggie L. Walker; and Joseph Littles; and Mary McCloud Bethune; and George Washington Carver; and Booker T. Washington; and W.E.B. Du Bois; and Jean Baptiste Dusable, and many others.
- There was a time when there were more Black-owned insurance companies and banks; retail stores and builders, plumbers, electricians, and craftsmen who served our communities; and Black Wall Street in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- There was a time when our HBCUs prepared our best and brightest to compete on the global stage -- producing lawyers, doctors, engineers, judges, teachers, preachers, and business leaders.
- There was a time when parents and grandparents taught their children about our history of struggle for dignity and equality in this country, even though we were separated from our African culture.
- There was a time when our community leaders were not distracted by diversions, but keenly focused on preparing our children to lead future generations to a better life in America. We were told to "represent our community" whenever we left home.
The real question for those who are asking "What if?" is "What happened?" How did we let so much of the progress of our people slip away?
How did once proud HBCUs become a shell of themselves struggling for survival? How is it that Black children don't know who the heroes of our struggle are? Why are Black teachers marginalized and ineffective? Why are we distracted by bling, sports and entertainment? Where are the "young, gifted and Black" that Nina Simone sang about? Why are education, employment, and wealth gaps increasing?
What if, indeed.
We don't need to dream about something that is beyond our grasp. We need to remember the lessons our forefathers taught us during the dark days of slavery, and the Jim Crow era that spawned the Black Civil Rights movement. We need to restore what has been lost.
We have come to a state where our focus is #BlackLivesMatter. I want to restore the days of "I'm Black and I'm Proud."
Roger Madison, CEO