Growing Up Black and Conscious In America
Hi everyone! Sorry about the quick break. But, with everything going on in the world, I needed to take a “pause for the cause.” My focus has really been off, and I’m praying for our world. This is such a challenging and pivotal time for us all. I pray that conversations, understanding and change come as a result of these tragedies. No life is in vain, and we all have an “assignment” in this world.
It’s so funny that “assignment” comes to my mind as I’m putting this post together. It makes me think about how my sister and I were raised. My parents raised us to be “conscious” of our culture and heritage. My parents felt it was their duty to ensure they gave us a full spectrum of what it would mean to be a black woman in America. They also wanted to ensure we learned about more than George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr., since that was the extent of black history we were being taught in schools during our childhood.
We grew up in the 80’s, and black history wasn't being taught in schools. Heck, Martin Luther King Day didn’t exist. We were only given brief references to our history in school, and my parents knew that wasn’t going to work. So, we spent our evenings and weekends as a family talking about our history. Our parents would amaze us with their experiences of growing up in North Carolina during the Civil Rights Era. They experienced segregated schools, blatant racism, and civil disobedience first hand. They were our eyes to the past, and they gave us full disclosure to the ugliness, and balanced it with love. According to my parents, this was the preparation we needed to survive in the world.
We were taught that being black meant we were going to have to prove ourselves. We wouldn’t be taken at face value. At face value, people were going to naturally focus on the color of my skin, and nothing else. It would be up to me to ensure I was polished, and commanded attention and respect with my intelligence and poise. So, my parents would remind us that our lineage is that of Kings and Queens, not just slaves. I was told on a daily basis that I could be anything I wanted, including be the President of the United States. Education was my passport to success, and realization of where I came from would guide my future.
I was taught to be articulate, kind, and focused with everything I do. Our parents raised us to understand that not all people are racist, but there are many in this world that would rather see me fail than succeed. I was taught to be open and aware of everyone and everything. Take nothing for granted.
Those lessons have served me very well. My sister and I have been blessed to have a very well rounded childhood, in spite of our experiences with racism. I’m unapologetically black, and I make it a point to treat everyone with respect.
Yes, I see color. But, more importantly I see character. My parents taught me that. That’s why black lives matter. Because we have to love ourselves before we can truly love other people; and loving ourselves doesn’t mean we hate others. It just means we know our worth, and want others to know it too.
Until we meet again, love each other and be kind.