Ever so often, I take a glimpse back into time at myself. I recount the things I've done, said, and thought. Of those things, it's the way I used to think that is most unsettling and makes me cringe. To be more specific, the thought process I used to have when it came to the black community and my failure to understand the condition of melanated beings in this place and across the globe was telling. All I knew was we were once slaves, slavery only lasted for 400 years, it was over, and that any of us still living in poverty or a life of crime just needed to make better decisions. In a way, it's true, but also false once actual history is taken into account.
Enter the age of information, where you don't need to look up historical facts in a library or an encyclopedia. The advent of the internet, which owes most of its creation to Phillip Emegwali, a black man, has allowed for the swift acquisition of information for decades now. According to U.S. Smartphone Industry Statistics : Facts, Growth, Trends, and Forecasts, there are currently 294.15 million smartphone users in America. 85% of them are adults. 47% of web usage originates from mobile phones. So, not only is information readily available at the click of a button, more times than not, it's right in our pockets. It is both a gift and a curse, but that's up for the user to decide.
Before I can even address the youth, their education, their choices concerning what they lend attention to and how they spend their time, what are we as adults in the black community doing in this regard? Are we still reserved to the things we were taught coming up in the K-12 public school system? Or, has something, anything, sparked our hunger for learning the truth? I didn't learn about Nat Turner, Huey P. Newton, Robert F. Williams, Black Wall Street, Cointelpro, Gary Webb, Fred Hampton, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. Amos Wilson nor the illustrious list of inventors, scientists, and healers that played a significant role in shaping America. I was a grown man in his 30's before I was exposed to teachings by some of our most intelligent protagonists in the fight against injustice and mistreatment nationally and internationally. At times, I can't help but feel disappointed and robbed, knowing this sort of default black thought wasn't laid out plainly for me as a youth. However, you know what's worse than not being taught or presented with such vital and relative information, having teachers who are miseducated in this arena imprint fallacies and misinformation onto black children about those who look like them.
I've witnessed it firsthand in the classroom. I'll never forget sitting in a room of troubled 5th grade boys who looked like me and being compelled to interject. A co-worker of mine, who was a middle-aged white woman, had them participate in a compare and contrast of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She had some disparaging remarks about Malcolm, misrepresenting what he stood for. Fortunately, I was there to correct her and properly inform the youth. But, imagine how many other classrooms this takes place in regularly across America? There's an educator shortage in this nation and many in our community often voice their concerns for the lack of representation in these institutions. My question is how would they represent if they were to step into the fray? Will they rigidly adhere to the abbreviated cookie-cutter curriculum? Or, will they understand the significance of teaching American history in its entirety, especially in the presence of those who look like them?
This past February, Black History Month for those who don't celebrate blackness 365/24/7, we had a group of black educators hailing from William Henry Middle School in Dover, Delaware, pay homage to our greatest defensive organization ever assembled here in the states, the Black Panthers. Diona Talley, Jamel Trott, Tyrek Joyner, Brittany Wilson, Tryrah Irving, and Taresha Scott are the dignified souls featured in the photo below which was posted to social media. A man by the name of Jim Hosfelt, who is a former Dover police officer, made a complaint about the post saying, "Teachers at William Henry Middle School celebrate an organization known for killing cops. Should I assume the Capital School District and school board endorses this?" So, as I stated earlier, here is someone miseducated in the arena of black empowerment spewing a fallacy. Never mind the fact that the Black Panthers were formed in response to state sanctioned domestic terrorism. Never mind the 20,000 fed by the Free Breakfast Program. Never mind the People's Free Medical Center. Never mind the Black Student Alliance. Never mind the... you know what? Never mind.
Needless to say, the district removed the post, but the individuals didn't. But it serves as a prime example of the point I aimed to hammer home to my Youth Firearm Awareness Program participants after this situation took place at our last session; KNOW THYSELF. Even though our topic, most appropriate as it could've been, was Black Americans and the second amendment, I made it clear taking the initiative to learn about who they are and where they came from in all aspects of life is a must. The Jim Hosfelts of the world will ultimately say these sorts of things out of ignorance, hate, or the misguided notion that the state, its agents, or government have a monopoly on violence. The responsibility is ours to make a concerted effort to be self-aware in order to render those who would seek to control our narrative inept. I told them:
"If you don't know yourself, somebody will know for you.
If you don't think for yourself, somebody will think for you.
If you don't do for self, somebody will do for you." - Fuller MAG Defense