“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within strength, courage, dignity”–Ruby Dee
#1 I am grateful on a daily basis for the opportunity to be immersed in spiritual-pedagogy. This worldview allows me to properly frame the past, present and future. I offer no criticism here of anti-theist or agnostics; nor do I make any judgment about the quality of their contribution to humanity; their morality or ethics; I am simply stating what works for, and drives me; each person must choose their own path. 3 Things are important here (1) that I believe that there is the presence of a supreme justice and good, who is not oblivious, and unconcerned, as to the acts and behavior of humans. If the universe is not inclined toward justice and the good; then the entire “thing” makes no sense to me. If evil is just and right, and will triumph in the end, then we are, in my view, all lost. The world then is forever left to the rule of the most brutal and emotionally callused, those who have accumulated the most “gold”; those who are the most efficient at exploiting their fellow human beings; those who have crafted a technique that essentially disregards and suppresses the humanity of the politically disenfranchised. And therefore; (2) the full realization and restoration of that humanity is of divine interest; slavery, exploitation and oppression is not the destiny, nor the divine intention for humanity. (3) The divine aim of each human, is to find their purpose and reason for entering history (no person is a mistake, regardless of the conditions of their birth); they must know God, and know themselves; and know God for, and in themselves, in the full meaning of a call to some category of service; that service is identified by the unique gift that each human is given before they are born.
#2 I am grateful on a daily basis for all of those in human history who fought in any way available to them; for freedom, justice and the equality of attention and concern for every human being. I am grateful for the “fighters”, both known and unknown. Specifically I am grateful for my own ancestral heritage of those who fought to affirm their humanity while under the most brutal conditions of violent exploitation, cultural aggression and dehumanization. For those who could only dream and imagine a “normal” family life, “citizenship”, fair compensation for their labors, the opportunity to go to school, where they could fully exercise their gifts and talents. I am grateful every day for their inspiration, their hopes and dreams, that one day in the future; that some people who look like them would appear and honor their suffering and prayers with good works and service.
#3 I am grateful (and I guess everyone can make the same claim about their own history); for the time-period in which I spent my youth. Although the 50’s and 60’s were full of racial discrimination, racial violence, and apartheid (written and unwritten) laws. I think I learned some important principles from that age:
• Segregation, created a type of solidarity and a collective reliance on other Black-Americans.
• There was a sense that “elders” (part, or not part of your family) were given “respect” and honor.
• Discrimination had an unintended outcome of creating a sense of strong “racial pride”.
• I am not one of those who “glorifies poverty” (there is no glory in poverty!); but not having access to a lot of financial resources; created a sense of creativity, inventiveness and ultimately a sense of self-reliance. Old cloth into kites, “retired” brooms transformed into “stick-ball” bats; “cannibalized” bicycle repairs; old skates turned into “skate-boards”; making a “go-cart” out of the raw materials of “things cast away”; creates (unknown at the time) a life-long sense of pride in one’s own capabilities; and that “life is what you make (out of) it”. I spent many years living in a “cold-water flat” (Now illegal in NYC, and probably unknown to anyone under the age of 60!); that experience and the many other “not having”, created an adult (me) who feels that I can endure any situation; because of what I endured and survived in my childhood. If I only had 2 suits, and 2 pairs of shoes; then that’s 1 more suit, and 1 extra pair of shoes, than I had as a child! To quote the recently departed Joan Rivers: “What more can they do to me?”
• Segregated housing patterns meant that the Black community was richly diverse. This diversity allowed me to see and interact with a wide spectrum of Black professionals and skilled workers.
• Starting in high school, we knew something was wrong with the way America was “organized” (that “promissory note thing” that Dr. King spoke of); it took us awhile to figure, and sort things out; we did this with the help of writers like: Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin; but figure it out we did! Most importantly, we also figured out that we had to do something about it!
• At every moment we were reminded that we did not represent ourselves alone; that we represented something more, something greater. The HBCU’s institutionalized that concept.
• The weak and insincere “giving back” concept now in vogue with a lot of celebrities; was a serious general standard concept and behavioral expectation; you saw older people who made great sacrifices, and who quietly braved daily humiliation at their places of employment. You owed them your best efforts and service. In college our conversation was less about a career; and more about service; we felt we were destined to fully give our all; not just “give back”.
• “Act like you belong to somebody”; was the daily charge given; that was our realty show.
And so I am grateful for my age, and the age of my youth; because it has so much to do with how I live my daily life!