My parents are from the South. They grew up during segregation, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow. I was the first child born in the North. I grew up during the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party, the rise of the Nation of Islam, the riots, and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and many more. My daughter is growing up through voter suppression, Stop and Frisk tactics, Stand Your Ground laws, and the elimination of the middle class to name a few.
My family history is not unique. Most African-Americans my age with roots in the South can probably tell a similar story. This is our history; this is part of our American experience. Throughout it all one thing has remained constant, our ability to stay the course and persevere.
Our parent’s generation paved the way for us to live the lifestyle that we enjoy now. There may be differences of opinion as to how much better off are we but in my opinion we are in a better position than the generation before us. Is everything perfect? Do we live in a utopian society? We know the answer to these questions. We may be far from “The Dream” but we have continued to push forward and make progress. Many have sacrificed their lives for us to be where we are today.
Today we face a multitude of issues. The list of challenges we face seems to grow every day. High unemployment amongst African-Americans, the quality of education in inner city schools, Black on Black crime, the percentage of incarcerated African-Americans, just to name a few. When we stack up the list it can appear daunting and overwhelming. It can make one think that all is lost and we might as well give up. I submit that now is the time for us to dig deep and press forward.
There are many individuals, organizations, and initiatives that are committed to addressing the myriad of issues that confront us today. Some of these individuals and organizations are nationally known but the majority of them are unknown. They are grass roots, community based people working hard to get the job done. These are our unsung heroes. These are the people that tirelessly serve their community without recognition. These are the people that are and will continue pressing forward.
I read somewhere that “So many times, the discouraged and depressed wait around for the dawn, rather than finding some kind of light switch to turn on instead.” Napoleon Hill was quoted saying “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.”
It’s time for us to get it done. We must maintain the momentum. Our children’s future is depending on it. I have no doubt that we will continue just as the generation before us to stay the course, persevere, and get it done.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.