In addition to remembering the legacy and accomplishments of many great men and women, the essence of Black History Month is also about continuing to build a sense of family within communities. Our mothers, fathers, and grandparents are our first teachers in life. It is strong relationships such as these that help shape who we are, and prepare us to be the new writers of history.
In my own life, I am always amazed at the power of the relationships I share with the beautiful women in my family. I am very blessed to have known my maternal great-grandmother, and to still receive endless wisdom from my grandmother and mother. The special interactions between the generations in my family were the ones that taught me about values and morals, hard word, and dedication. My relationships with these women are also the ones that anchored my commitment to my education. They are the type of relationships, much like I discussed last Fellowship Friday, that seem to be foundational to reaching academic and personal success for all students.
Recognizing that all students can benefit from the guidance and mentorship of older generations, the value of close relationships is not a luxury that has to be confined between blood-family members. These important ties can also be duplicated by the teachers, pastors, friends, and other influential people who enter students’ lives. Finding new points of support for students is particularly important for disconnected youth, who continue to be disproportionate across racial and socioeconomic lines.
Just yesterday President Barack Obama announced an initiative many constituents have been awaiting his entire presidency–one that addresses the unique challenges men of color face in reaching academic, economic, and personal success. My Brother’s Keeper, as the initiative is called, extends a plan for new research and programmatic efforts to empower this group of young people.
Locally, Georgia Center for Opportunity is always dedicated to empowering stronger families and communities. As a Breakthrough Fellow it has been incredible–through the Breakthrough Norcross, College and Career Pathways, and the Prisoner-Reentry projects–to see such concerted efforts to link all Georgians irrespective of their background to better outcomes in life. I am continuing to learn what extends the essence of Black History Month past February. Policy efforts that are underlined with an understanding of service and strong relationships between neighbors, friends, and family are an important start.