" Tell me whom you love, and I’ll tell you who you are." ( African American Proverb)
What do we as a people love? We love success, respect, and pride. That is what has brought us so far in life. We strive to be the best in everything we do, and when someone says we can’t, we try even harder. Is this, however, our only individuality? When I think about being an African American, I think about freedom. I think about people like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. These were people who stood for things in their lives, and where not afraid to die for what they believed. They represent our character! Within them resides what has shaped us into the strong people that we are. As we understand all that they have done for us, we access the ability to lead the way for our next generation. However, it takes us making the same life threatening sacrifices.
I am only one person, but if I do my part as an American I will make a difference. I hope to make a difference as a teacher. My heart leaps for joy when I see children with a desire to learn. By becoming a music teacher I hope to be one of the many that lead the way for our next generation. I want to demonstrate that words are not the only thing people perceive. "Mere words are cheap and plenty enough . . . "(Penny, A Owen) I want children to express themselves in music, and play the songs of freedom instead of simply speaking the words; conduct society to the rhythms of life; strike the chords of peace; and create harmonies and melodies in action!
Our people are a song whether we acknowledge it or not. The question is, on what note will the song end? The beginning of the song, as we know, is filled with pain and separation. However, the end will be whatever we make it. It can end in dissonance or unity. By teaching children music I hope to encourage unity. When I teach little girls and boys to play music I am teaching them to depend on and support each other. In music you must depend on the person next to you, and they must depend on you. If one fails, the whole orchestra suffers. The same is true in African American society. We must depend on and support our people. If one fails, we have all failed, and if one succeeds, then we have all succeeded.
As stated before, our ancestors paved the way for us, and the ball is now in our court to continue what they have started. No one wants to talk about the pains of slavery and the shame that came with it, but if we don’t talk about where we have been then we won’t realize where we are going. I want to learn more about African American history. More than what I learn in history books. There is no justice to what black people have done in the pages of America’s history. I would love to sit down and talk with people like Maya Angelou. Someone who has truly experienced life, and gained much wisdom. She has faced issues from racial segregation to the Harlem renaissance. We, young people, want to understand the lives of those who have gone before us. We realize that we are the next generation, but how will we lead a country if we have no direction?
My direction is coming from a different source. My source was around before the fall of Rome and the tower of Babel. I am gleaning from his wisdom and understanding of life. He has given me a map to follow so I won’t get lost, and spiritual guidance so I won’t become discouraged. My source is Jesus, and his road map is called the Bible. We can’t gain wisdom from him if we don’t know him. I met him in the spring of 2006, and he has given my life a new direction. I want to see others undergo the same life changing transformation. I feel that if we lead people to Christ, then we don’t have to worry about making a brighter future, because we will be following the morning "Son."
I believe that we as people should continue to stand for something. We have stood for the abolishment of slavery, the right to vote, racial desegregation, and freedom of speech. What are we standing for today? Are we waiting for others to make a stand on something, so we may join in with them? Why wait? Why not stand for something individually? All it takes is one. I am making my stand. I certainly want more freedom as a black woman, and I don’t want to be judged solely by the color of my skin. That is why I am standing as an individual with an individual. I am standing for and with my savior, Jesus Christ. With Him all the changes that are needed will come. It will be in his timing, but they will come. He has chosen our people to go through the wilderness of slavery because he knew we were strong people. If we look to him, he will bring us through to the other side of our mountain, and end our song with joy and peace. We can’t depend entirely on ourselves, but we must depend wholeheartedly on him.
"Tell me whom you love and I'll tell you who you are." We love freedom, and Jesus brings the only freedom that matters. He brings freedom from the chains of sin. Whether we are white, black, yellow, or blue, true freedom comes from the inside and works its way outward. If we love Jesus, then others will see us as we have been striving to be. FREE!
"Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
(Maya Angelou - "Still I rise," And Still I Rise)
Without knowing our past, how can we have hope for the future? It would be a shame for all the hard work our ancestors put into our freedom to merely forget their accomplishments, and forget that they even existed. It is important for African-Americans to pass down legacies and to never forget where they came from. How would you feel if someone, not just an African American, came up to you and asked who Martin Luther King Jr. is any why he is so important for us to create a holiday for him. I am not just addressing black people when I saw it is important to remember black history. One of the common sayings in our society today is to, “Learn from your mistakes,” how are we, as a society supposed to learn from the mistakes of the past if we are not even aware of our history? The hardships that our ancestors had to experience, especially during slavery, should not be taken lightly. Even today, I complain about measly chores, such as taking out the trash when African-American slaves were forced to work tedious hours with no break just to receive a mediocre meal. I would not even like to entertain the thought of a world where the famous documents of Langston Hughes, or other artifacts from black slaves were lost forever, and my children be unaware of the sacrifices they made to better our generations. God forbid slave history would repeat itself, but what if it did, and there were no previous documentation of the struggle that the slaves were forced to endure.
If we use the resources we have gathered from the past and use them to propel our community, black people worldwide will be more successful. When I hear stories about slaves emerging to glory, it just motivates me to be successful and develop my talents more thouroughly. Not too long ago, African-Americans were expected to be nothing, and there was no room for financial or social growth. We were basically quarantined with the masters like canines, which probably received more positive attention from their owners, and black people were forbidden to learn.
Today, I am hoping to positively affect the community, particularly the black community. It is imperative for me to set an example for younger blacks to follow. It will further motivate them to excel in school and refrain from criminal acts if they see someone who looks like them to succeed in something excluding selling drugs or stealing. The elders of the church, most of them successful blacks, have motivated me to sow the seed of hard labor so that I can eventually be a powerful voice in the community. I vividly remember going to brother Warner William’s house and gazed in awe at the huge mansion placed in the middle of a “white neighborhood.” He had a large movie theater in his house and I want to someday be able to comfortably afford luxurious items without being piled in debt as many blacks are. Although it is nice, even if I go into a profession that does not provide me with an abundance of wealth, I want to be able to help the African-American community and show them that it is important to do well in school and go to college. It is a shame how many blacks end up dead or in between bars, but an education will take them far, and they will not have to rely on committing lawless acts.
In some ways, we have not taken advantage of the sacrifices that our ancestors made. In some communities selfish individuals directly damage and destroy their black community by selling drugs to one another, shooting and killing one another, stealing from one another, and essentially restricting their community from the freedom to excel that heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. has fought so hard to obtain. We are supposed to be advancing as a community, but in many ways we have retracted. We no now have the freedom to pursue an illustrious career, but some have enslaved themselves to a life of poverty and crime.
Many historic events are currently taking place. The most immediate one being a Black person running for presidency. Even if Barack Obama does not win the election, it is already surprising to most how many votes he has received, and how he is actually a contender in this years election. It is great for the African-American people to see one of the same race who has climbed up the political ladder and has been a beacon of light to all of us. We need more blacks such as him who have a definite presence in the community, and people acknowledge and strive to be like him.
It is our job to educate other blacks in the community to further us as a group, and make them become aware and accountable for our black history. We can and are accomplishing this goal by incorporating black sources in our community. Black media, including: newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio stations play a vital part in bringing the African American community together. Some may argue that it is a hindrance towards the ultimate progress of African Americans in society because of the lack of interaction with other cultures; however, having sources dedicated to black media helps us to gather information and help other blacks that ordinary sources would disregard or decrease importance. Magazines geared towards black people, such as Ebony, include stories, mostly positive, of successful black adults and adolescent alike. Sometimes, mainstream news will distort the truth involving black citizens, which causes some ignorant people to make assumptions and judge black people based on those unjust assumptions. For example, the news presents the growing crime rate in certain areas, and sometimes exploits the African American males involved in these crimes. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to the black community to produce their own stories of the positive stories of the black community that will help us progress in society. In addition, when hearing success stories it makes the reader more motivated to succeed in various ways, especially when they see a person of their same color and culture succeed. There are always those who doubt that an African-American is capable to make a difference in the world, but the black magazines that positively represent someone who is making a difference in the community such as Barack Obama, elevates our hope.In actuality, when I first started writing this essay, I viewed as a chance to gain money towards my college education. Thankfully, because of the sacrifices made by blacks preceding me, I am actually able to attend a 4-year university, and I actually have options. Even if I do not receive the scholarship, merely being able to gather thoughts about the contributions that others have made to our lives is a blessing. It is important that we raise awareness of our history, and it all starts with me. Likewise, a whole boycotting movement resulted in the brave decision of one lady to decide to designate her own spot on a bus. Thank you for allowing me to submit this essay, and I wanted you to know that it has helped me to grow tremendously as a person.
What is Black History? Did those words bare the same meaning to our ancestors back in the days of persecution? Did they know they were making history? Society as a whole can see the relevance of African American history successful in today’s modern world, by tracing the roots from which it began. When we talk about African American history, from which lens do we look into? If we look into the past as history, we can see how important African American history is relevant to success in today’s world. For example, we look at Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and we know the story. What we fail to realize is that we reap what we sow and as a race, the leaders of that time sowed good seeds and natured the soil for the future generations to flourish. With Rosa Park’s stance not to take the back seat of the bus because she was black, gave us a voice of no more segregation.
Now this leads to other trickle down effects, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama and Dr. King Jr. and his powerful speeches will benefit us for generations to come. We all know the past of African American history, but I’m viewing it from another side. I’m seeing history and not thinking of it as the past but as close as today.
African American history is relevant to success in today’s world because there is an extraordinary past that we can model after and learn from it. What kind of African American history can be made in today’s times? In this 2008 presidential race we see that Senator Barack Obama is making history now. It’s amazing to know that he might even become the next president and be placed in the history books forever. Even if he doesn’t become president, his run alone will be remembered for many years to come. By him making history, he is also encouraging African Americans to vote. So we can take look at African American history more in the past or more recent, but either way it’s providing a mold for us to follow and we should take hold of it.
The ways in which I hope to make a brighter future for the African American community are none other than by example. The only way I see myself reaching out to the African American community is by being the best role model I can possibly be, in good standing with the law and community. I can take advantage of my education, by trying to reach my highest possible academic achievement.
I am a violinist, I play in my school orchestra and for one of the youth orchestras in my County, each time I travel with the group, I represent the African American population. I know that when I traveled to China with my youth orchestra, some Chinese were surprised to actually see an African American, some of them came up to me and was touching my skin, and was just amazed to know that I was a real, living being. I guess the best way to reach others is by being the best I can be, and taking advantage of every opportunity possible. The price was already paid for by our forefathers, now it’s my time to take advantage of these opportunities and become somebody. Reaching out to others and telling them my story why I choose to be educated, or why chose to play the violin, my mother always say to me that “Music is a key to open many doors”, and I have seen that.
In my school orchestra, I have obtained the Outstanding Achievement in Orchestra awards, being the only African American in my school that I know of who obtained that award for almost four consecutive years.
I hope that my accomplishments will be a tool that I can use to encourage other African American people. I feel that being down to earth and not quick to judge is also essential.
I see a lot of African Americans in my neighborhood and even if I don’t know them, I still say hi. Other people will look at them and be afraid. Afraid for what reason!? Just because they are black, sad to say some of them are my friends. It is my goal to touch the lives of many individuals in the African American community, by leading by example.
In order for us to educate young people that history is still taking place in the African American community is by re-evaluating what we “think” African American history is and what “is” African American history. To begin, a lot of people think African American history is pointless and therefore “educating” themselves by not educating themselves in African American history. What many don’t realize is that without the history of our forefathers, there would be no future for our generation.
What about the way we portray African American history? Can that be a factor in shunning young people from understanding African American history? Does the portrayal of African American history only focus on the negative aspects, or does it try to educate and have us learn from the past, to insure a better future? When pre-teens become teens, their minds are starting to shape and influences come from all over; friends, family, environment, media, etc. Maybe to get other young people interested in the African American history is to show them, teach them of all other black inventors. I was surprised to learn that a black man invented what is called “The Third Rail” more of these inventions and the importance they play in today’s world is very vital in showing our young people that we are not only good for inventing Peanut Butter, but we play a much larger role in society than credit is given. When we look at the traffic signal, typewriter, urinalysis machine, video commander, hair brush, helicopter air ship (blimp) just to name a few were all invented by black inventors, and these things we use and not realize that it was the invention of a black man. Because of these inventions, we have a future, and this must be must be transferred to our young men and women.
Some people feel that since they are black they know all about African American history and just spew out a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about it. They refer to other African Americans with the “N” word and at the same time can shun away other people because of the ignorance of some people. We need to let our fellow brothers and sisters know that there is more to African American history than just slaves and that they can contribute to African American history, by being apart of it and being educated on it. After we have done that, then we can educate more individuals by making them be more aware in our schools. Use Black History Month to our advantage and promote some of our Black Inventors and their role in society today. Maybe Social Studies teachers can assign a project and have them research an African American person, or English teachers can have kids write an essay incorporating African American history. Corporations can advertise African American history in their products in a simple fashion; such as having information of a famous African American under a bottle cap (maybe an inventor). In the end I feel in order for us to educate others, we must first be educated.
Thus I feel that African American history can not only be looked at as in the past, but we can look in today’s timeline and see African American’s paving the way. If we follow this mold, we can insure the success of African American history for years to come.
As a young woman growing up in Oakland and attending its poorly maintained public school system, I’ve experienced first hand what happens to a black community in an oppressive society. At my high school, Oakland Technical Senior High, the student population is approximately 60% African American, but the Advanced Placement courses are less than 10% African American. The segregation of students between the “smart” and “regular” classes, though not instituted by the school itself, is blatant, insulting, and in great need of change. After having many challenging and engaging conversations on this topic, I’ve come to my own conclusion that the fate of these students being tracked into high and low performing courses starts at an early age. Of course the family’s expectations of the child have a huge impact, but for me personally, as well as many others, school is a home away from home. My experience at my elementary school, Glenview Elementary School, I found that I was favored most, if not all, of my teachers. They saw me as a student with a lot of potential, and they could also see that my home life was not exactly perfect. Each and every one of them, from kindergarten to fifth grade, gave me the motivation that I needed to do well, and they assured me in every way. My parents had little to do with influencing me to do well in school; neither of them ever felt capable of doing well in school their whole academic lives and neither one of them went to college. From an early age, I believe that children are socialized to believe in whatever their community’s idea of what success is, and also to believe in what they are and are not capable of accomplishing. With society’s dramatically low expectations weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of African American youth, the lack of motivation and dedication to school can almost be described as a social epidemic. It’s always caught me off guard how differently black and white students feel about what they can do in terms of their education. So few of the African American and Latino students at my high school ever talk seriously about going to college, and it is startling and sad how low their expectations of themselves are.My main goal is to go to a four year college to earn a degree in teaching, and bring my degree back to Oakland. As a product of the Oakland public school system, amongst its internal and administrational problems, I’ve learned that the most valuable, influential and important people are the teachers themselves, because from them, students gain the most genuine positive reinforcement. I have been blessed to come into contact with so many inspiring and strong teachers who work harder than any one else I can think of, but still remain so terribly unappreciated. In urban communities like Oakland, teachers fight so many odds in an effort to make all students feel included, in spite of racism and lack of motivation in their students. In this system, they are paid far less than what they deserve and their efforts as educators in an urban all too often go unrecognized. I realize the difficulty and challenge that teaching in Oakland would present to me, but I feel like I am capable of doing it, and doing it well. As a teacher, whether I decide to teach elementary, which is what I would prefer, or high school level English or History, I would make it my main focus to infuse the idea in my students that education stems from community. What I’ve observed to be the main problem within the African American community is the complete lack of the positive components of community itself. Website Dictionary.com defines community to be something, “common, public, general, shared by all or many”. In terms of education, from elementary school onwards, students find themselves in an unhealthily competitive and often detached place of learning. Students fight each other for attention from teachers, whether it’s negative or positive. Students copy and cheat to pass courses and are promoted to the next grade, where they are still farther behind, and thus become even more marginalized and ignored by the system. Often what I’ve noticed is that students who don’t perform well in school don’t do so because they’re unintelligent or incapable, but because they feel alienated and excluded from the students who are focused and engaged. I can’t help but think that if only those students had enough support and messages of inclusion, encouragement and positive reinforcement from their teachers, peers and families from the beginning, those students would have so many more opportunities open to them, ranging from greater understandings of the world they live in, to college and well paying jobs, and even to great positions of respect and power in the communities which we fight for the good of. If I could become a teacher in Oakland, I would try my hardest to make it known to all of my students, whether they are black or white, rich or poor, or any of the contrasts that exist in our community, that they are in complete control over their futures and that no one can stop them from achieving their goals but themselves. By teaching students that they have a great power and responsibility for themselves, they then begin to see the power they have in their community. Through group work comes changes that affect groups, and when a group of people can come together long enough to produce something meaningful, their creation is all the more miraculous. As an Oakland public school student, my aspirations to become an educator are not limited to teaching- I want to bring a sense of community to my classroom, the school I will potentially be teaching in, and ultimately to the city that we share. By teaching youth the importance of community, caring for others, being respectful of the city we live in together, and acknowledging the value of their own individual potential, I will help to bring members of the African American community of Oakland closer and more positive. As Sir Francis Bacon said in 1957, “Knowledge is power.”
Congratulations to the finalist to this year's Black History In Action Scholarship Essay Contest. We appreciate all the entries that we have received, but there can only be one scholarship awarded. We have looked through the entries and have selected the following essays as the finalists to compete for the award.
THE CATCH: Members vote for their favorite and the one with the most votes gets the prize. So vote for your favorite. Voting is open to all registered member of the forums and will close at 11:59pm on Sunday night, March 23rd, 2008.
Here is what the contest was about:
Contestants must prepare a 1000-1500 word original essay discussing the following points:
1. How is African-American history relevant to success in today's world?
2. How are you, individually, committed to making a brighter future for the African-American community? What steps have you taken?
3. What can be done to educate young people that history is still taking place in the African-American community today?
Finalists will be selected and posted for voting at HBCUConnect.com.
You're encouraged to submit photos, video, or other media to support your message. Creativity is a plus! (we will post at our discretion - no ****** / profanity etc.)