I want to tell you a little story about a woman that I know named Naomi. I had the pleasure of meeting her many years ago, and my memory of her is one of strength and perseverance. We’ve had many conversations over the years; conversations where she actually invited me into the inner recesses of her life.
She didn’t think that
there was anything overly extraordinary about herself. As a matter of
fact, she describes herself as being just another working mother that
was out there trying to do the best she could. But as I listened to her
recite the high and low points of her life, it became crystal clear
that she wasn’t the average black woman.
She survived a physically
abusive marriage. She told me that after the birth of her third child,
she realized that things weren’t going to get any better for herself and
her children, and it was in that realization that she summoned the
courage to pack their bags, hop on a Greyhound bus and leave the man
that she loved…the man that had become everything except the man that
she thought he would be. She went on to say that she willingly put her
life on the back
When she left, she didn’t have much money, but
she had family, and it was in the love of her family that she took
solace. She strove to make sure that her sons never knew that they
didn’t have a lot. Never a day went by where they didn’t have lunch
money. They went on class trips, proms, dates – and she filled their
lives with many happy Christmas’s and memorable birthdays.
all that, she admitted to me that there were many nights that she had
cried herself to sleep because of her loneliness, but she hid her pain
from her sons. She said that it was her love that she wanted to share, not her pain or disappointment.
told me that she wanted to instill in each one of her son’s a strong
sense of pride, placing particular emphasis on family. She said that
she wanted them to remember family because in this day in age, sometimes
family was all you had.
I was floored because the more that she
talked, the more she struck me as being the exception as opposed to the
norm. She hoped that the day would come when life would become easier
for her sons. You see, she knew that as black men, life wouldn’t be
easy for them. She tried to prepare them for life’s realities – that
opportunities to excel were not always readily available for African
American men. And although I have a tendency to agree with her, there’s
something that we both notice in this day in age; something that we
didn’t expect to see in our lifetime.
There’s an upsurge of pride
that has taken root in the African American community. It has remnants
of the pride that black people carried with them when they marched with
Dr. Martin Luther King during the turbulent 60’s era. Black celebrities
are finally stepping up and becoming leaders in their communities;
lifting up their brothers and sisters instead of making it and then
basking in their own success.
Celebrities like Tyler Perry create
plays and movies that deliver long overdue messages of empowerment, love
and forgiveness…messages that speaks to the core of our very being.
Celebrities like Tavis Smiley who constantly tackle political issues
that are relevant to our community. Celebrities like Tom Joyner who
created Black America Web which broadcasts stories of interest as it
pertains to black people. Michael Baisden who has a highly publicized
radio talk show that addresses topics of interest pertinent to not only
black people, but to all people.
We never thought that we would
live to see African American people attempting to help one another in a
public forum. But now we are, because with every charitable act, every
broadcast, every fundraiser, I realize that I have a shot at being
anything that I want to be. I can actually believe without a shadow of a
doubt that I can become anything – as long as I work hard and
I’ve never been more proud to be a part of a race of
people that have been repressed, persecuted and subjugated into
slavery. I’ve discovered that part of my character is being African
American, Negro…Black. I’ve embraced my rich heritage willingly and
lovingly because people like Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Michael Baisden
and Naomi make it so easy for me to do so.
And although I may
never meet Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey or Michael Baisden, I have met
Naomi, who by far is the brightest star out of all of the celebrities
that I’ve mentioned.
You see, Naomi’s full name is Naomi Olivia Whitehead – my mother…and being African American doesn’t get any better than that.