Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Get up, stand up

January 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Health, News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Knowledge is the prime need of the hour.”

Mary McCleod Bethune

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” –

Malcolm X

“Nothing is more powerful and liberating than education.”

William Gray

“I made up my mind that I would die to see my people taught. I was willing to prepare to die for my people, for I could not rest till my people were educated.”

Kate Drumgold

“When you’re through learning, you’re through.” –

Vernon Law

“Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse.” –

African proverb

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is sin.” –

Benjamin E. Mays

What are you doing to prepare your children for successful lives in the 21st century?

I thought about that after recently hearing one of my neighbors cuss out her six-year-old daughter as she sent the school-bound child to the bus stop unescorted early one morning before the sun had come up.

I spent most of that morning praying that the little girl made it to school safely and that her mother would understand the psychic toll her verbal abuse was taking on her daughter before it was too late.

That scene also reminded me of an episode a friend, Kasimu Harris, shared with me recently. During a recent visit to New Orleans, he witnessed a little boy who couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old proudly holding the door open for several women. The women, appreciating the magnitude of the little boy’s gesture, heaped praise upon him, causing him to beam with pride. That elation was short-lived, unfortunately, because when his mother realized that he had stopped to hold open the door for someone, she cussed him out like a sailor. ‘You could actually see his little shoulders slump and a defeated look come over his face,” Kasimu recalled.

We have got to do better.

And for the record, not knowing better is no excuse for not doing better.

Regardless of who we are and our current state, there are always opportunities for personal growth and a better understanding of who we are.

While some of us may have not grown up with a father in the home or may have had that doesn’t excuse us from finding positive role models for ourselves and our children. Nor is anger or dissatisfaction about the hand life has dealt us a good reason to neglect the children we bring into the world.

As parents and adults, we need to give our children and all children every opportunity to be all they can be.

That means surrounding them with positive images of themselves, encouraging our children to put their best foot forward every day and doing everything in our power to provide them with a safe, healthy environment in which to live and grow. It also means encouraging our children to read and practicing what we preach to them about the importance of education and reading.

One of the things we must ask ourselves is whether our children are reading anything outside of school work. If they’re not, we’ve got some work to do.

I refuse to believe that there is a human being on the planet who does not like to read. Many have simply failed to find the right reading material to turn on that light switch within them or may have never been encouraged to develop an appreciation for the written word.

In a world where information is power and the ability to communicate is a crucial skill, reading is as critical to the survival of human beings as fresh air and clean water. It is imperative that we convey this to our children and encourage everyone around us to feed their minds and spirits with uplifting, informative and life-affirming reading material.

Philip Jackson, founder and executive director of The Black Star Project, understands very well the critical role reading plays in the survival, growth and development of African-American children and African people in general. In a recent column he wrote, “Reading means freedom. Reading means prosperity. Reading means power. Reading well, with comprehension, is the purest indicator of academic and economic success and an essential step to solving almost every problem in the Black community. Reading well is the gateway to success for Black Americans in the 21st century. There is no other way.

“Black people must be responsible for teaching Black children to read. No other strategy or approach has worked. Encouraging the Black community to take responsibility for Black children learning does not mean that integration was a failure or that many white teachers are not doing a good job. Nor does it mean that Black people should only allow their children to attend majority-Black or Black-operated schools. It does mean, however, that no matter who teaches our children, Black people must develop and enforce our own educational standards,” he continued.

“Unless we, Black parents and other Black community members, immediately take the issue of poor reading skills by African-American students into our own hands, the work of the 20th-century civil rights movement will have been in vain.”

Phillip Jackson offers the following recommendations to address what he calls the “national emergency” of Black children reading poorly:

1. Model reading for Black children. Read for knowledge, read for self-improvement and read for pleasure.

2. Read to very young children and have young children read to siblings and older adults.

3. Encourage your children to read for 30 to 60 minutes every day.

4. Encourage your pre-school through high-school children to read to you every day.

5. Encourage younger children to read rather than play video games or sports.

6. Give books for birthdays, holidays and other meaningful occasions.

7. Ask your church to offer children’s weekly reading classes and to encourage children to read church lessons on Sundays.

8. Praise Black boys more for reading well rather than for engaging in other activities.

9. Encourage your children to join a book club for youth.

10. Build a household library with books and magazines for your children.

11. Reward your children for reading often and reading well.

12. Organize reading parties or events with other families for your children.

13. Visit bookstores and libraries regularly with your children.

14. Ensure that the books at your children’s school are up-to-date and relevant.

15. Encourage your children to read in one or more languages in addition to English.

16. Enroll your children in a free or low-cost tutoring program.

17. As every Black child that you meet: “What are you reading today?”

If we are serious about making things better in African America we are going to have to tap into the love, faith, hope, resilience and courage of our African ancestors, the ones who understood that the Creator is the source and aim of all life and that ” am because we are.”

Even in the darkest of times, they never took their eyes off the prize or strayed from the battlefield. That kind of steadfast commitment to fighting the good fight and finishing the race requires phenomenal vision and courage, the kind of courage that is desperately needed in today’s trying times.

I’ll leave you with poet Maya Angelou’s inspiring words about the importance of courage.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”


Written By Edmund W. Lewis

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