I must admit, like most of you, I was teary eyed as I listened to this young man talk about his journey. It wasn’t so much what he said, but the feelings his words stirred up in my gut. My tears were from the overwhelming sense of pride I felt. I don’t know this young man, but I felt connected to him. He was appreciative and humble. I also sensed his pride for his accomplishments and his disdain for those who thought he couldn’t and others who thought he wouldn’t.  It was almost like he was saying, look at me, I did it. I am successful in spite of the hurdles that were in front of me.

I also felt burdened.  There are so many young men who should be able to feel what he feels right now. We live in a country where public education is available to everyone. This young man should be the norm. We should not be amazed by what he’s done, we should expect it.  Are our expectations of our children so low that we are awe struck when we see someone who took their education seriously, burned the midnight oil studying for tests, turned in homework on time, participated and volunteered in community efforts, and was respectful to himself, his parents, and others? Where have we gone wrong? Those same things it took for this young man to be successful, are the same things that took us from the cotton fields to the white house.  As he quoted in his speech, Langston Hughes reminds us that “Life ain’t no crystal stair”. Being successful in spite of hardships and not failing because of them was a standard for black folks. You were expected to work hard, pull your pants up, study, and be respectful. What happened?

Congratulations to this young man and hats off to the village that came together to raise him. It’s time to take back the village.  

Until next time, stay strong, smart and powerful!


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