Even during this dismal year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the media, we cannot dismissed the accomplishments and achievements of all our youth graduating from high schools, colleges and other institutions of higher learning. They are to be saluted and praised for their hard work and perseverance in reaching their goals and ascribing to be productive and successful contributors to our society.
But a special, extra shout-out and recognition is warranted by young African American graduates navigating in a system that often details their failures or shortcomings. This stereotyping is consciously unbeknownst to many. It’s fueled by systemic racism found in every aspect of life— politically, socially and economically. But regardless of the numerous constructs devised historically to keep African Americans from achieving academically and economically, one must understand that it is only natural for cream to rise to the top. Poverty, negative stereotypes, or lack of adequate resources were not enough to keep some motivated and determined young Blacks from reaching their desired goals and fulfilling their dreams.
There’s aren’t enough words to thank the caretakers and parents, especially single mothers or fathers who sacrificed, supported, and prayed that God would help get their child through high school or college. And we must not forget the mentors, coaches, and ‘extended village’ that never gave up on our children. All our children’s victories, accomplishments and success are an investment in our future. Many of these Black graduates come from families of educated parents or parents who adamantly promoted or stressed education and were also an example for their child. However, some of these children represent the first generation of having a college graduate in their family.
We must realize and understand that our Black children have never lacked the skills and talents necessary to succeed when given the opportunity; however, there are so many social, economic and political restraints put forth to deter their success. But regardless of historically being denied access to White institutions of learning, denied adequate resources for predominately Black schools, and legislation that made it illegal for Blacks to read and write in some southern states—Blacks have always possessed the zeal to learn and progress, even if some Blacks have had to feign or suppress their talents to avoid the wrath of their oppressors. But make no mistake, we are now making up for a historic deficit of denied opportunities.
This year’s Black graduates prove that the years of White supremacy representing Blacks as inferior, trivializing our worth, and dehumanizing us is falling upon death ears. In fact, it is not the realization that so many of our Black children are graduating, but are graduating with honors and as salutatorian or valedictorians at their respective institutions. We can now boast that we have numerous athletes who have proven to be just as proficient in the classroom as in their respective field of sports, graduating with academic honors.
It is unfortunate that we have not been able to celebrate all these graduates in public settings with crowds applauding as they observed them walking across a stage or with open celebrations with many people in an enclosed setting. However there is no shortage of Black families coming up with ways to untraditionally celebrate and honor their worthy and ecstatic graduates. No one is prouder than the graduates themselves who are on a continuing, designated path meeting their future goals—whether it be with high school graduates going to college or college graduates embarking upon their selected areas of expertise.
When talking to the graduates, you’ll find many want to be entrepreneurs or are seeking higher education as a professional in areas such as education, health care, engineering, business or technology. They seem so well focused that nothing is going to deter their determination to soar.
In many Black families, you find young females gravitating toward fields once dominated by men or perhaps they have plans to become an entrepreneur. A testament for such high expectations is that many of these young ladies have never had a shortage of strong, highly intelligent, caring and dedicated mothers, grandmothers and aunts in their immediate families. The same can be said about young men, groomed, motivated and inspired by the positive Black male role models present in their lives. Sometimes as adults, we are the best examples for aiding in molding our children’s dreams.
In conclusion, kudos and congratulations to the Black graduates continuing to break myths, and daring to dream and soar. I would be remiss in not acknowledging those young Blacks already in their chosen professions, daily taking excellence to another level. Their numerous achievements and accomplishments are an assurance that the prayers of the slaves are being answered.