By Vernon A. Williams
Every day, there is another horrible, discouraging news story directly or indirectly impacting African Americans. Usually brutal. Usually confrontational, harsh, dismissive and heartless; enough to make the average person worried about the future.
As I lamented the most recent every day social and political atrocities – which will be replaced with new tales of woe before this column goes to press – something surprising and powerful came over me; the revelation, Curtis Mayfield sang, “We’re A Winner.”
If I was the late comedian Robin Harris, the thought would have been, “We don’t die – we multiply.” If I was Maya Angelou, it would have been, “And still we rise.” If I was Isaiah 54:17, the thought would’ve been, “No weapon formed against us shall prosper.”
If at that moment I had been Martin Luther King Jr. that thought could best be summed: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right – truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown, stands God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”
Then despite all the shooting and police beatings and hate-filled politics and daily dirt of discrimination, and the teaching of even the children of oppressors to despise God’s children, and all of the ugliness that we endure on a regular basis as a people, we are irrepressible because we are in the will of the Creator.
If you need evidence, look no further than African American billionaire Robert F. Smith, who, speaking to 400 graduating seniors at Morehouse College in Atlanta that his family’s gift to theirs’ was paying off a total of $40 million in student loans to let them start their careers free of massive debt.
Queen Latifah announced plans to return to her New Jersey home to build a $14 million housing complex in her old neighborhood. Billionaire Oprah Winfrey donated a half million dollars to a Newark school for an after-school program three nights a week for a safe student gathering place, complete with commercial-size washers and dryers for their use.
And in case you need more convincing that Black America is continuing to thrive, consider these amazing success stories of young people around the country:
Rawlin Lee Tate Jr., an 18-year-old graduating senior at Woodlawn School in Georgia, is the first African-American male valedictorian with a 4.7 GPA. Not only has he never received lower than an “A” in any class, he has never had a single test score of less than 98. He has earned $1.2 million in scholarships.
Simone Askew this year became the first African American woman selected First Captain at the United States West Point Military Academy. The Fairfax, VA woman is the first to hold the position, also known as the academy’s highest leadership role. The 20-year-old founded the Black Student Union.
Alexis Peterson and Taykeetria Rogers this year became the first Black female Valedictorian and Salutatorian at Junction City High School in Arkansas. Peterson, the valedictorian, plans to attend Northwestern State University and Rogers, the salutatorian, Louisiana Tech.
18-year-old Brittany Reaves walked across the stage as a magna cum laude graduate of Fayetteville State University–earning her bachelor’s degree in History. She completed the equivalent of four academic years in one year, completing the rest of her required credits at Cumberland International Early College High School in South Carolina.
Indianapolis Warren Central High School Senior Brandon Warren was named one of America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers of 2018 in a Washington D.C. ceremony hosted by Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. He was selected from more than 29,000 nominees for organizing WeLiveIndy to protest youth violence after his closest friend was shot and killed.
These are just a few examples. There are too many to mention. The binding message of each is, though the oppressor tries relentlessly to hold us down, harness our dreams, subdue our enthusiasm and force us into inferior thinking, too many young people are rejecting the notion and insist on living their best lives.
The struggle will continue. But occasionally, we need to look at the shining stars in the galaxy of Black America. Sometimes we need to declare the victory even as we wage one battle after another. Sometimes we just need to accent the positive and just shout out loud that nothing will deter us from our destiny. Absolutely nothing.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].