Last Friday, I had the privilege of speaking at an awards ceremony for a local charter school in the greater
area. After I had spoken, during
which the students were receiving their awards, I noticed something that
bothered me. The students didn’t want to come up on stage to get their awards,
and when they did come up they either turned around and walked back down the
stairs or they walked sluggishly across stage, embarrassed as if they had done
something wrong. The other students teased and laughed at the other students
who were recognized for their good deeds. Atlanta
But were these students doing something wrong? By the standards of their environment, yes. It wasn’t cool. Acceptance came with being the brashest and the “hardest” student. My thought was, “what was even the point in them going to school.” I felt as if I was in a real-life Lean on Me movie.
A few facts: the school is an all boys school, in the heart of the Bankhead community. The school is 98% African-American and many of the students come from low-income families.
After this disturbing sight, I asked the principal if I could say but just a few more words, and I began to talk about showing pride when someone is recognizing their greatness instead of running from it. I talked about taking ownership of their stage and walking with head up. I spoke on competing with each other to be better, and not competing against each other to bring down. From the looks of the audience, I truly felt as if the message resonated until a few minutes later when I sat back down, I saw one of the recipients get up, take off his medal, and square up to fight another student.
I thought to myself that it is funny that we live in a society where we are ashamed of our greatness but are not ashamed to display our ignorance.
So, then I ask, “Why are we afraid of our greatness?” Is it because we are surrounded by a lot of destroyers in our lives and not builders? Is it because there is too much pressure on being great? Are we not just doing a good enough job as parents, teachers, and citizens of our communities to stop this way of thinking?
Regardless of the reason, it is a sad sight to see. I worry about our children, especially my African-American children, who are blinded from their greatness.
For all people who are hiding in the shadows of despair, inferiority and ignorance, let us appear out of the darkness and show our greatness. We all have it in us.
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