I sit here thinking about all of the things going on around me and I lament the present state of much of black America. I think back and I wonder where the descendants of my fore fathers are. Where are the black preachers who gave their all to the civil rights issues, who put life and limb on the line for the betterment of all of us? Where are all of the teachers who worked for a pittance so that black children could get an education? Where are all the mothers who considered any child mine and treated him or her that way? Where are all the fathers who worked menial jobs from sun-up to sun-down to put food on the table? Where is the pride that caused us to care about our appearance and that of our children? Where is the work ethic that helped many of us move into the middle class? Where is the pride that caused us to sing I’m black and I’m proud? We come from a long line of royalty from a people that had ancient plumbing systems when no one thought they existed. When did we lose our way?
Some of us don’t even seem to realize that we have lost our way. We think that this is all there ever was. When I was a child for all practical purposes there was no welfare. If there was any you weren’t going to get any. It didn’t matter, because no one wanted it anyway. We were a proud self sufficient people. We took care of our own. We may not have been rich but we lived as if it didn’t matter. The trucks came around every day at daybreak to collect people to go work all day in the hot sun and let me tell you North Carolina has some hot sun. If you didn’t have a housekeeping job or a job in the mill, you got on that truck. No seats to sit down you had to stand until you get off at the field. If you thought you were going to get hungry then you better have a tin lunch pail with yesterdays’ leftovers. If not you’ll be hungry until dinner. People didn’t complain because they were glad to be able to earn a few cents and trust me that’s all it was. People lived off that few cents and the few cents they could earn farming their land. They bought houses and land, maybe not the best but it was theirs and they owned it. Some people even had old rattrap cars that they kept running on a wing and a prayer. You never gave up and you kept on trying. When my mothers’ oldest sister went off to college, tuition was only fifty dollars a year, but that was a lot of money back then. It took a lot of sacrifice to do that. We were a tough people doing whatever it took to move our children ahead. Some people kept their children out of school to work in the fields but my grandmother didn’t. She knew even then that education was the answer. She did not intend for her children to have knobby hands from washing white peoples’ clothes. She wanted more and she got it. She saw four daughters graduate from college and go on to obtain masters degrees. When the civil right era ushered in parity for teachers, her children were poised to benefit from it. Most people became teachers or preachers or undertakers. These were the fields open to them. Many men went to the service as did my uncle and cousin who retired at an early age to go on and have other careers. They could have spent time lamenting all of the jobs they couldn’t get because they weren’t open to them but they didn’t. They took the opportunity open to them and they ran with it. We had black principals and black teachers who endeavored to make children learn, because they knew what they faced in the real world. I often say that integration was the worst thing that could have happened to black children. We left places where we were valued and expected to learn to go to places where we are categorized as not as bright before we get to the door of the school. A lot of that is racism but some of it lies squarely on the backs of the people who bear and are parenting these children. What did you teach your children to prepare them for school? Research shows clearly that white children enter school with a much larger vocabulary that black children, whose fault is that? When I was a child, there were no Laundromats, no electric irons and no central heating for that matter. I never wore dirty clothes, nor did I go anyplace with my hair not done. We never went anywhere that we weren’t dressed properly. The Hills were always decked out. We had to act like we were something even it didn’t seem like it at the time. We held our head proud and we acted like we were somebody important. It wasn’t money that gave us this attitude. It was a lady named Hattie Mae Nixon Hill, my grandmother. I always said my grandmother was recycling before anybody knew what it was. Nothing was wasted. My grandmother had sisters who worked as housekeepers in the north and they would send boxes of clothes that their employers no longer wanted. If it didn’t fit you when it came it did by the time Hattie and her old trusty pedal singer got through with it. Grama knew how to use it up, make it do, or do without. I had nylon slips when other kids were still wearing cotton because Grama cut the good parts out of the adult slips when they were worn. In the summer you had to plan for the winter. Harvest those crops, kill those hogs and build a potato bank. That was hard work. It wasn’t just run down to the corner store and get some potatoes. First of all there was no corner store and secondly even if there was it wasn’t walking distance and you might not have any money. Most of the people I knew were avid church goers and they had their “Sunday go to meetin clothes”. Many people walked long distances. The lady that was our Sunday school superintendent, you could have set your clock by her on Sunday as she went by to open the church and start the fire if necessary. I never heard her complain about how far she had to walk. She was glad to do it. We had standards then; there were some things you didn’t do. You didn’t beg like everyone does nowadays. We were a prideful people. We didn’t have lazy people who spent their whole lives on welfare like the world owes them something. Years ago people used to say “shall I park my car in front of Convent or Abyssinia to see the fashion show on Sunday morning?” It was a considered a faus pax to go out on Seventh Avenue on Sunday without being dressed. Harlem was the place to be. All of the little girls with their long pigtails and ribbons slowing in the wind, the boys with their crisp white shirts and ties. We were a proud people. Now we don’t go to church. We take Sunday for our laundry day. We sent our children out in weeks old cornrows. We send them to school in wrinkled and dirty clothes. We don’t know if they had homework or if it’s done. We expect the teacher to do our job. We go on back to bed if we ever got up in the first place. Instead of teaching our children that they are wonderful and fearfully made, we buy air Jordan’s so we can impress the neighbors who are as slothful as you are. Instead of teaching our children that you are as smart as anybody and you can be whatever you want, we spend time hanging with the rest of the neer do wells. Instead of trying to give our children experiences that will enhance their lives and well being, were trying to figure out how to go to “great adventure”. They call great adventure the” Ghetto Park”. Guess why? Instead of buying our children books that can help built their self esteem, we trying to get the next X-box game. Well I got news for you, the man that’s making the next X- box game, he’s already rich and he’s counting on the next money he’s getting from you. Instead of getting your ten year old a computer, you getting him an I-phone so he can practice killing things. When summer comes instead of finding something to occupy your child’s mind, you just let them hang out in the street with you. This maybe a news flash, but children learn what the live. If you hang in the street with all of the ne’er do wells, what do you think you’re teaching your kids. When you let your children wear clothes that looked like they just fell off the truck. You are saying to your child. Don’t value yourself, don’t be proud of who you are. Our children are worthy and we need to strive everyday to let them know that. Your children should feel like I’m God’s creation and God don’t make no junk. I got to look like I’m God’s creation. That doesn’t mean that he or she needs to have one hundred fifty dollar sneakers. I’m not saying that you should never buy designer clothes, but remember the designer is living off people like you and he has a nice house and a nice car. You should take great care to see that your child values himself and not manmade items. A child needs to feel confident in himself. If your child needs Jordan’s to feel good, what will he feel without them. It’s your job to raise your children to be smart, confident, educated and able to handle life. We have strayed so far from our roots. We think it’s alright to go out in pajamas, curlers etc. Where did that come from? That is not a legacy of proud black people. We are strong and we are invincible. If we weren’t we wouldn’t still be here. We were preserved for better than this. Our fore fathers endured all kinds of indignities so we could have a better future. They shed blood and what are we doing, collecting welfare, section 8 and standing on the corner which by the way you don’t own. Since when did it become honorable to have babies you have no intention of taking care of? Parents both men and women owe a debt to the children we bring in this world. You have no God given right to bring children into this world to live in poverty and want. By the way there is more to poverty than just money; there is poverty of the spirit and life. When you have no pride, when you have no ambition, when you are not striving to be better everyday than the day before, when your soul has dried up and withered, when wrong doing and unethical things become common place. How can there be joy in such an existence? Dolly Parton talks often about how poor she was as a child, but she speaks lovingly of the life they led. It inspired her to be the person she is today. We should be inspiring the next generation, not killing it before it has a chance to flourish. We don’t know what lies beneath the brain of these children. If we are not nurturing and cultivating it we will never know. I want the real Black people to stand up and be counted. Are you being counted?