By Vernon A. Williams
Okay, African American History Month is the shortest month of the year. Get over it. Just imagine what a difference it would make if Black Americans committed to one action for each of those 28 days to step-by-step construct the change they want to see. I have thoughtfully compiled daily watchwords for “our” month.
These are not open to debate because they reflect my point of view. You are free to accept any or all, or come up with your own list. In either case, we are at the place at which we need to stop talking about it and start being about it.
Freedom takes more than verses of “Lift Every Voice” and paltry reminisces of “I Have a Dream.”
Changes for the body, mind and spirit are required to take our situation to the next level. Here are my recommendations for each day in February:
- Write to your legislators and the White House to insist on increased funding for Historically Black Colleges.
- Become active – not just financial – in a community, civic or social organization that is action-oriented on its focus on the Black community.
- Along with tithing, offerings, praise, worship and feeling self-sanctimonious, be a driving force in your church doing more for Black youth and senior citizens.
- Examine what role your company is playing in improving the condition of African Americans and, no matter what it is, help take it to the next level.
- Become a big sister/brother, tutor or mentor for a student anywhere from pre-K to graduate school, sharing both your knowledge and your wisdom.
- Be part of a watchdog organization for elected officials at every level – both African American and others – to hold each trusted individual accountable.
- In the quest for leadership, stop recycling the same old names and uplift unsung heroes and “sheroes” of all ages in your community.
- Most of you never heard of the three real-life women featured in the classic movie, “Hidden Figures,” so stop claiming you already know all there is to know about Black history. Study. Knowledge is power.
- Refuse to cower away from articulating alternative perspectives when your colleagues, friends, neighbors or supervisors speak out of order regarding Black America and Americans.
- Document your family history in writing, orally and on video with as much detail as possible, going back as far as you can, to share with descendants now and in the future.
- Get therapy if you need it but shed that inferiority complex that makes you believe the lie that brothers and sisters are somehow less competent, less trustworthy, or less hard working.
- Celebrate the progress of Black colleagues, neighbors, fellow parishioners, relatives, friends, associates and strangers without envy, judgment or contempt.
- Please at least consider the negative impact on children who see so many Black adults – men and women – with dyed blonde hair and/or blue contacts lenses.
- Consider requesting that in lieu of flowers, donations go to your favorite scholarship fund or educational institution on your transition.
- There is no such thing as “normal” so if you are 21 or older, act like an adult and get past any family issues or hostilities that you harbor.
- Reclaim the ‘hood’ starting by learning the names of some of the people you pass on the regular and may – or may not – speak to but never actually converse.
- No matter how recent or how long ago, reject the phrase ‘cold case’ and stay on the case of law enforcement to solve violent crime in the Black community.
- Each day try to do three things: (1) say something nice to a stranger, (2) say something nice to an acquaintance, and (3) perform a random act of kindness – anonymously if possible.
- Cut down on mindless television shows, movies, music and video games for your children – instead urging them to use time more productively – with you leading by example as often as possible.
- Whenever you need to purchase goods and services, make an extra effort to find a Black business that can satisfy your needs at a comparable cost.
- Support African American-oriented events in and around your community throughout the year – not just in February.
- If you don’t like the Black Expo, the Urban League, the NAACP, 100 Black Men, the Center for Leadership Development, Black Greek Organizations, the Ministerial Alliance, Black alumni groups and similar initiatives, either come up with something better or become a part of them and push for change. Aimless grumbling on the sidelines is a cop out.
- Remind yourself of the bitter hatred and inhumanity that compromised our heritage and stop being so “color struck” by light, bright and near white (and stop calling such complexions “fair” as that suggests those opposite are less fair).
- Denounce the term “racial tolerance” since it suggests willingness to cope with a negative. People of color deserve respect, not affirmation.
- Reject those who claim to be “color blind,” instead urging them to open their eyes in unconditional recognition of our unique beauty and culture – seeing Black people for what they proudly are.
- Teach the children the fact that their history did not begin in the United States, that there is no such thing as a “slave” (but rather people subjugated to slavery), and that the validation of others is not a prerequisite for their dreams.
- Prioritize mental and physical health, not just in words but as well in your diet, physical regimen, disposition, thoughts, deeds, words and habits.
- Step up your worship life, individual praise, spirit of faith and genuine obedience to the word of God. Never forgetting that, if it had not been for the Lord on our side – where would we be?