A Tribute To A Dream Deferred

by E. Amado Williams

My grandmother only had a third grade education. When I turned three, she taught me how to recite the Lord's Prayer, how to read, how to write, how to do arithmetic, and through my parents she prepared me for how to stand up and be a man. My room stayed packed with Dr. Seuss books, my parents’ old college books, pages of additions, subtractions, multiplications, and division, scribbling to better my handwriting, and empty pages that filled up as my interest in learning grew. My grandmother, like countless men and women of her generation and before, did not have opportunities accessible at the snap of a finger the way my generation has options. She and my grandfather were not products of "old money" and easy access to yellow brick roads. But, still, they gave so much more than anyone could purchase with money. Holding advanced degrees, certifications, awards, and accolades, I feel that my grandmother preparing me for moving within the mediums of great thought was the greatest legacy anyone could have bestowed upon me.

Now that I am well over thirty years out of the womb, I have recognized a decline in the trend of embracing opportunity. In school, we read about Blacks who took abuse from ill mannered deli merchants who felt that Blacks were only good for serving. These Blacks stood their ground so that the world would know that they and their children were not doormats on which a majority society could wipe its muddied boots. We learned about Blacks who fought tirelessly for our right to vote. We also read about the horrific experiences of young Blacks’ integration into White schools in the South during the turbulent Civil Rights Movement. The students, frightened daily by angry Whites shouting "We don't want those niggers going to school with our children" persevered and continued in the face of adversity. They completed their high school education and went on to get college degrees. They walked through gauntlets of threats, seething stares, flying bricks, and the fear of meeting death while they marched into unwanted school houses.

If one could conjure up the spirits of American Blacks who experienced the high pressures of fire hoses blasting in their faces or screaming because of dogs chewing on their legs while trying to vote, what would those spirits think? What would those spirits think of those Blacks in California who stayed in bed when there was a referendum put to vote to abolish affirmative action in the education system? What kind of reaction would those spirits have with respect to Blacks conveniently whining about racism in between robbing and killing fellow Blacks? What about the call for boycotts and misdirected anger when Blacks do not win every award nominated for, but scream bloody murder when a Black does indeed take the prize by any legitimate means necessary? What would those spirits think about the kid sitting in back of high school classrooms telling students who want to move forward that going to college will make them a sell-out? I am alive and shaking my head, so I can only imagine how someone who went through pain for "good measure" would feel.

Recently, I heard a Black man posing a solution for helping Black students. He excitedly explained a school program to entice high school students to become intimate in the world of hip-hop from the singing to the producing. If singing is not a desired option, he proposed the fantastic world of sports. When asked why not present law, engineering, science, education, medicine, and finance, the man gave no answer. When asked if he considered encouraging the students to further their education, he scoffed at the idea. The irony of his reaction is that he firmly stated that counselors in high schools do not present education with enthusiasm, and certainly not any power career. What hurts worse is that this individual comes from the sobbing school of thought that, to borrow from Zora Neale Hurston, nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. The solution posed to go into either tap dancing or moving a ball from one post to the next is minimal and is at best the "cool thing to do" instead of the "right thing to do" as it involves giving our youth the appropriate tool set they will need in life. Hence, "the odds are stacked against Blacks" and "four hundred years of oppression" become anthems sung in the tune of high-pitch apathy that resonates that doing what society expects of Blacks make you Black, while excelling makes you White. Have more babies than you can take care of. No, place the blame only on the woman; after all, Mary gave birth without experiencing pleasure. Publicly disrespect your own people and yourself. Do not bother to go to school. Beg for spare change instead of trying to get a job that pays dollars. Kill those who are trying hard to better their situation. Invest in buying exaggerated accessorized cars and clothes that automatically get us typecast as good-for-nothing instead of investing in a company 401K plan or in an IRA. Tell our children, who choose to do poorly in school, that failing a course or two is only a temporary setback. Get angry at Blacks who move to the suburbs because they get tired of having other Blacks in the urban center throw trash in their front yards. Yes, be irresponsible. Life is so unfair, but on the whole we do absolutely nothing to eradicate our "coon" status because God forbid we become something positive that overshadows self-imposed-doing-nothing role models in our communities.

Perhaps if Blacks did not have accessible educational and blatant civil and human rights, we would fight tooth and nail to reclaim our rights. We would pick up guns and shoot the oppressor instead of each other. Then again, we are our biggest oppressor. Our grandparents and ancestors before them certainly withstood unbearable torture to assure some ease of magnitude for their children. Why does the current generation thumb its nose at what those before us endured so that we could have better? Could it be that opportunity is the equivalent of a novelty to us? Once we have access to whatever we need, there is no more thrill in desiring or obtaining it? When I think about the fact that a woman who seemingly did not have gave so much to give me a head start in life, I cannot let the work she did for me go in vain. Bachelor degrees, master degree, PhD, high rank at work, access to whatever I want, novels under my belt, and high awards complete, I am still thanking her for instilling in me the importance of possessing that which no person can take away from me--my mind. My parents always said that they wanted to give to my siblings and me what they did not have. My siblings and I never wanted for anything. Well, I want to give to my children what I did not have. I will start by giving them a head start in the world of education, because the only other thing that will open our eyes other than an apple from the Tree of Life is an education. You simply do not spend the rest of your life walking around with your eyes closed dragging a bag full of excuses.

A Tribute To A Dream Deferred by E. Amado Williams

© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

TimBookTu Logo

Return to the Table of Contents | Return to Main Page