Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why We Can't Wait

At least once a year, I reread Why We Can't Wait by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, quite possibly one of the greatest non-fiction books I've ever read. It's a work not often talked about but it is often quoted. You may have heard the following:
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Every time I read it, I find a new gem or source of relevant inspiration. My most recent reading proved no different.

On January 25th, protesters in Egypt spoke out loud and clear about their frustration with Egypt's President Mubarak.They marched, led civil demonstrations, and in some cases rioted and clashed violently with nationalists. The world watched as the Egyptian drama unfolded and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when on February 11th, the President gave in and resigned. Despite his February 1 pledge to not run for reelection, the Egyptian masses said, "No! We can not wait! You must go now."

In my own life... I've had similar revelations. My long-term goals include professional development in the non-profit arena and more stage/film experience.  I can dream about these things and hope that it will come to pass, but for them to come to fruition, I have to take action. That means acting classes, saving for a possible move to Los Angeles and seeking opportunities in my office to develop new skills. 

Saying that you "will not wait any longer" does not mean that you aren't willing or able to be patient, nor does it imply that you're restless or overanxious. It means you will no longer wait for life to pass you by; it means that you will allow the passage of time to be accompanied by activity, progress and hard work.

In the book referenced in this title, MLK says:
[There] is a tragic misconception of time... a strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Time itself can be used destructively or constructively. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to [wait].

How will you use your time wisely? What goals/plans/discarded resolutions could you be working towards? I implore you to begin to be proactive today. Do something concrete to bring your dreams closer to reality. If it's simply drafting a budget for a savings plan or if it's something bigger, like applying for 501 (c) 3 status for your dream non-profit, it's a step in the right direction.

I'm no mogul or huge financial success encouraging you to take a journey that I've already traveled; I'm simply a fellow human in this thing called life encouraging you take a journey with me, so we can inspire each other. :)

Black History Moment
In my continuing quest to share information about unsung Black Americans this month, I encourage you to check out Guy Johnson, a great writer. Guy Johnson is an example of someone who took several stabs at life. He's held several jobs including managing a bar in Spain, working on oil rigs in Kuwait, photography, and finally.. as a writer. As the child of Maya Angelou, you'd think he know he was born to be a writer, but not so. I highly recommend his historical fiction novel entitled Standing at the Scratch Line. While Why We Can't Wait is my favorite non-fiction, Standing at the Scratch Line tops my fiction list. It gives you drama, romance, action, a lot of history, and even some voo-doo.
Learn more about Guy Johnson here:
1. Guy Johnson at Random House
2. Guy Johnson at Barnes & Noble

As always, I welcome your comments. I'm especially excited to hear about any plans you have for moving your life forward.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black History Month is for Everyone!

I'm a little bit of a nerd about Black History Month. I enjoy reading and sharing the facts and contemplating my role in it all. But I never considered it a moment specifically for Black Americans to be proud; I thought it was something for all Americans to be excited about. After all, don't people of all races & ethnicities love peanut butter and blood transfusions? (George Washington Carver & Charles Drew respectively)

Well, I learned that everyone doesn't see it that way. So, A Word or Three is here to clarify a few things:

Brief Brief History
Black History Month is the child of Negro History Week, a celebration pioneered by Carter G. Woodson for the sake of informing Americans (all, not just Black Americans) about Blacks' contributions, something that had traditionally been excluded from history books. February was chosen as the month, in honor of President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass' birthday.

Why BHM Rocks for Everybody
  • It contributes to our "melting pot" lore. In a recent speech, President Obama said, "We are a nation that says out of many, we are one." And while in practice this doesn't always happen, America tries. But for us to melt into this great-tasting stew, we can't leave any of the ingredients out! The carrot must have respect for the onion. Ok... this metaphor is getting ridiculous, but you get my point.
  • An incomplete history isn't history at all. Suppose I decided not to discuss or respect our Founding Fathers because many of them owned slaves? Suppose I decided that I'd rather not respect the writers of the Constitution because the original version considered me 3/5ths of a person and rendered me ineligible to vote for 3 different reasons? (I don't own property; I'm not white, and I'm not a man.) American history books have this peculiar habit of putting "Moments in Black History" or "Women in History" in the literal margins of the book versus including them as part of the main body of text. Wouldn't it be odd if history books had a special highlighted section entitled "White Men Who Made History" ? I believe the intent of these highlights and "footnote style" is to give Black History a special shout out, kind of like Black History Month, but it also creates the subconscious idea that Black achievements are secondary to the main story. In reality, without Blacks' contributions in the fields of education, science, fine arts, politics, humanities, and et cetera, America would be a very different place. Black History isn't an aside to the American story; it's an integral part of the major plot!
  • Black History is an inspirational story of triumph despite overwhelming adversity. If you still haven't committed to believing that Black History is for you, consider this: It's about the stuff that makes for good movies! Slavery, Jim Crow, the Klan, unequal education opportunities, institutional racism, lynchings, and just plain old mean prejudice are a few of the reasons why life for Black Americans has been -and continues to be- a tumultuous ride. When you consider that at different times in America it was illegal for Black Americans to read and write; that a wolf whistle at a woman could get you castrated & lynched; that the National Guard had to accompany a little girl to her equal education, that almost all 60% of former inmates exonerated through DNA are African-American men, that even today, Blacks with comparable education and experience receive less pay than their White counterparts, it really is inspirational!
So let's celebrate this month. Let's celebrate the achievements of Malcolm, Tubman, and DuBois. Let's celebrate the achievements of those whose names aren't etched in history books. Let's celebrate the achievements of people who sacrificed so that it's ok for me to write to you. Let's celebrate the achievements of our fellow Americans. It's patriotic.

In honor of Black History Month, my February posts will honor those you may or may not have heard of. What will you do? Share.