“There’ll be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read them. But all that is going to matter is that little dash between them.”- Author Kevin Welch
From its inception, Black History Month has provided an opportunity for African Americans to reflect on our rich history and traditions. We remember great leaders and innovators such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, Carter G. Woodson and George Washington Carver just to name a few. We celebrate accomplishments from the past and share how those triumphs have shaped our present. However, there are still the age old questions.
Questions like “why is such rich tradition relegated to a month?” and “do black people even give a damn about Black History Month?” A few weeks ago, my fellow VSOP brother, Mr. Nice Guy, took a look at comments made by Ms. Stacy Dash who has taken the stance that Black History Month should be eliminated. Now I will not steal my brother’s thunder, but his well-articulated piece led me to consider a different thought.
WHAT WILL MY CHAPTER IN THE BOOK OF BLACK HISTORY READ?
One of the most important elements in history is the present. The present is important because it sets the foundation of what the future will look like. The present will also one day become the past, which teaches valuable lessons of how we came to be who we are and what we need to do moving forward to become who we should be. Black millennials are faced with an interesting challenge, the challenge of crafting what African American history will be, moving forward. As we look at every great moment in black history there is one constant; young people were on the frontlines in defining the movement. As I generally do, I would have any individual of color that is reading this blog to do some self-reflection. As you look in the mirror and think back on your life thus far, ask yourself the following question: “when I leave this earth, what will MY legacy be?”
Gone are the days when we can lean on the legacies of Malcolm, Martin, and other past leaders and expect that to be enough. The time is now for us to consider what our contribution to this world will be in between the dash. The dash that I am referring to is every single second, minute and hour that you have on earth before you take your final breath. Will your dash be full of self-doubt, pessimism, great ideas that never get fulfilled and complacency? Or will you channel the spirit of your ancestors and be an innovator, goal achiever, dream fulfiller and community builder? My hope is that you will choose the latter and that a fire is ignited within you that can never be extinguished. In order to sustain your flame, you must be willing to stay the course and persevere through any obstacles that you face. History makers do not quit at the first sign of challenge; instead they work a little bit harder as the stakes get higher.
Gain a deeper and more intimate knowledge of your ancestral history, so that you do not have to rely on someone else’s narrative to define you. The more that you understand where you came from, the easier it is to navigate the path of where you are going. Once you identify what you want your legacy to ultimately be, go after that goal with enthusiasm, an open mind, and vigor. Prepare yourself to be successful at building your legacy and surround yourself with individuals that can help you to build your skillset, motivate you when times get rough and challenge you when you need to be. Develop and maintain a “fighter’s spirit” because every chapter of your life will not be glorious; every great story has a bit of adversity.
Remember that the successes and failures of the past help to give perspective to our current situation, but it is our responsibility to define how our people we will be viewed in the future. Your presence in the annals of black history is important and it matters. YOU are the next chapter in the history book and YOU have the power to control what your page in the book will read. So today I challenge you to be bold, brilliant, unapologetically black and unapologetically proud. I challenge you to be better than you ever imagined that you could be and to create a network of like-minded individuals that will take our people to the next level.
My last challenge is simple, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE SUCCESS THAT IS WAITING FOR YOU. In the words of Marianne Williamson: “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” Do not be afraid of that light, because that light is truth, that light is freedom, that light is success and that light is opulence.
Be blessed my people.
-Tai D. Richardson
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