Growing up, I did not learn in a class or in books about the struggles of African Americans. The predominantly white schools I attended had little to share of the black experience. But, I learned by real world experience, watching my grandparents and parents struggles to make the best life for our family. I learned about slavery, Jim Crow, racism, segregation and more, from listening to the stories my grandparents shared with me about their life experience growing up in Mississippi and Louisiana, and the disparities they faced along the way. I recall my grandfather sharing with me, how the system allowed him to fight in WWII but wouldn’t allow him to be a equal citizen back home.
I learned about the African American struggles, every time I neglected my homework or “lesson” (as my grandparents called it). For them, my education would make and has made all the difference in my life advancement, in order for me to have something they could not. What I understand now, as a 41-year-old mother of 3 beautiful black boys…we still have a loOOng way to go. Yes we have seen development over time. That fact can not be denied. But my son who is 19 has still experienced similar disparities as my grandfather who is 89. In other words, We ain’t Fixed Yet! And for that reason, I teach my boys, by telling the same stories, my grandparents told me; and I tell my own story as an African American woman and all that I have seen, heard and experienced. When I tell my son, how a white boy at school called me a “nigger”, he is SHOCKED! No one has ever called him that and meant it. For him “nigga” is just a term he says with his boys. So for that reason, WE must never get away from Telling The Stories!! The richness in our history is in the STORY! I also try to expose my kids and anyone else to education, information and experience in whatever way possible, thru mediums such as this…Where we can see, hear and learn from the stories.
D. Najuma Smith