One of the stories I tell in “Well, My Mom Says…“
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the first February at my new school and I was looking forward to the Black History Month events. But to my surprise there were none planned. It had been such a big deal at my last school, I was ready to learn more about the history of America. I was so excited, only to be welcomed with no program. As a 5th grader I wondered what I could do. Could I make a difference? Could I put a program together? Would the school honor it? I went on to plan the program that year and set a lasting tradition at the school.
But why was it so important to me?
The stereotypes for someone like me ( a young minority male ) were massive. Was I to fulfill them? I was trying to make it to 21, which was a big statistic of the time. I was trying to do well in school. I was trying to lead the class. I wanted to tear every stereotype down. I may not have been from the most affluent neighborhood or had the best clothes, but I could compete in the classroom. And that I did. But where did I get the idea that I could rise up? Black History Month. I had my mother telling me I could everyday and she pushed me to, but it was what I read in history books that showed me with clarity that stereotypes could be beat.
My initial studies during Black History Month gave me an identity. It showed me the best of who I was. It showed me a contrasting message to what I saw on TV. Who was I to believe at that age? I chose to identify with those that transcended the setbacks. I saw myself as one of them. I could as well. No matter what I heard or saw. I was capable.
When you see so much negativity surrounding your sex and race, it’s easy for a young minority male to become negative in regards to his future. What is out there for him? The one who has the high death rate, the high drop out rate, low literacy, high disease… In medical school I could guess who would be on the top end of prevalence in hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, gun violence, HIV, STI’s. Most classes I’d look around and I’d be the only one represented in the population. Black History Month tells a positive story. One contrary to most statistics, news and media. I wanted to embody it.
When you have many things against you. When racism tells you you’re at the bottom. When you’re one of few in your profession, company, school, neighborhood, office (POTUS), etc. Black History Month brings pride to who you are, who you can be, what you have done, and what still needs to be done.
Black History Month showed me who I was… Embrace our country’s heritage.