Despite Recent Accomplishments: Education Still Key for Blacks in America

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by Reggie Fullwood

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others. . . . One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

These are the words of W.E.B. Dubois, and they written over 100 years ago in his book, “The Souls of Black Folk.”

It’s this “twoness” that Dubois talks about that for many years blacks felt that we couldn’t achieve on a high level in this country. It’s that same feeling of twoness that has discouraged so many African Americans from following their dreams.

It is funny how that past still speaks to us today. I continue to say that the long-term solutions for improving our communities reside in education. The most obvious example that comes to mind is President Obama – his education is what qualified him to lead the most powerful country in the world.

The first lady, Michelle Obama, comes from very humble backgrounds on the Southside of Chicago, but also used education to achieve success graduating from Princeton and Harvard Law.

It’s what Dubois and Booker T. Washington debated about in the late 1800s and early 1900s. How to best educate former slaves so that they can be self-sufficient and provide for their families. Of course Washington wanted blacks to focus more on trades while Dubois favored a more formal education in the classroom.

Regardless of their methods of trying to help black folkdevelop, education was at the center of the debate.

Again, that was well over 100 years ago, but it’s probably even more relevant today. How do we reverse the cycles of poverty we see in our communities? How do we stop senseless crime and murders? How do we create a stronger black middle class? How do create more black professionals, entrepreneurs, and business executives?

Education is still the solution whether it’s 1914 or 2014. And black leaders have known this from the days of slavery until now.
George Washington Carver once said, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
“Educate your sons and daughters, send them to school, and show them that beside the cartridge box, the ballot box, and the jury box, you have also the knowledge box,” said Frederick Douglas.

Congresswoman Barbara Jordan said, “Education remains the key to both economic and political empowerment.”

“Education is the sole and only hope of the Negro race in America,” stated Booker T .Washington.

Many viewed him as a militant, but the real story of Malcolm X tells a totally different story. He knew the importance of education saying, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

So our past has relevance even today.

Remember that old bigot saying that if you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book? Of course that was before African Americans were award winning authors and poets.

Most of you know this, but it’s important that our youth understand why the slave master didn’t want their slaves to know how to read or write. A slave could be killed if caught reading or attempting to read a book. 
We have to teach our children that knowledge is power and the slave master knew it. They knew that with some education slaves would be much harder to control.

The relevance of that information should inspire black youth today.
 I know that I am getting old because it seems like I am losing more understanding with young folk every year. I really do not understand why more minorities, especially black youth are not taking advantage of the educational opportunities available to them.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans, white and black,fought and died for blacks and women to have equal rights in this country. How can we let those sacrifices fade away in vain? Or better yet, how do we let those sacrifices dry up “like a raisin in the sun.”

So a lack of educational opportunities is no longer the problem, but I am certainly not saying that blacks no longer face challenges in this country. Yes, a black man is in the White House, but there are still many inequalities that exist in the housing finance industry, college admittance, corporate America, and many other areas.

Blacks have consistently made strides in this country. Langston Hughes once said, “I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why Democracy means everybody but me.”
If only Hughes were here today – democracy does mean African Americans can and do achieve on a very high level.Whether we’re talking about sports, entertainment, politics, business and education – blacks have been trailblazers in America.

Zora Neale Hurston said, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” But education and preparation are the keys. There are a lot of ailments that affect our community – education continues to be the cure.

Signing off from Valor Academy on Soutel Drive,

Reggie Fullwood

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