Three years ago, my father passed away as I held his hand and told him how much it meant to me to have had a father like him. It seems like yesterday as my husband Jim, and his exceptionally compassionate physician, Dr. Hawthorne, who to date, proudly speaks of the reciprocal role Papa played as a mentor to him, rendered their support.
I feel compelled to mark this day with the brief letter below to the man of few but effective and wise words that I call “Papa”:
Three years ago, you took your last breath as I held your hand and seized the moment to send you off with a tear-filled tribute only deserving of the likes of you. Your legacy will forever live on if I have anything to do with it. I thank you for showing by example that it is indeed possible for one to successfully interact with people of differing points of view and orientations to achieve a common goal that speaks to the preservation of humanity.
Thank you, “Mr. Activity Cole”, for giving me something to think about with regards to your resolve to uphold the true spirit of Fourah Bay College’s motto: Non Sibi Sed Allis (“Not for themselves, but for others”)— through your service to others. You know it is not easy, but if you did it, so can I.
It is a wonderful thing to daily recall moments of your caring and engaging fatherly spirit. I thank God for the gift of a father such as you.
Rest in Perfect Peace, Papa.
As I take stock of all that I have learned about the rich history and culture of Black Americans, and Black pioneers around the world as a whole, during the month of February that has been officially designated for the observance of Black History, I cannot help but ask myself how that knowledge and the accompanying mindset can be translated into respect and regard for self and others. My hope is that a large number of us have made a worthwhile contribution to lifting up and keeping Black History alive by engaging in activities and participating in events that can only help people of the human race understand that there is indeed a common denominator inherent in all citizens of the world that is anything but common. For there is so much more to this “common” denominator. It is binding, it is healing, and possesses the ability to forgive and assuage fear and ignorance…and yes, it can quite easily yield the opposite result when it is not given the attention it needs to flourish.
In addition to my contribution to the Black History Month enrichment process, I was blessed with knowledge that I otherwise would not have received had it not been for those who made major contributions by sharing so many “Firsts” by Blacks that were virtually unknown to the masses before now. I was elated to see establishments make a move towards spotlighting people of African descent here on Long Island – a move whose time had come, in light of the unsettling racial climate in this country.
I invite fellow Americans and African Americans to join me in enjoying this sense of pride and desire to understand the rich legacy of people around us, in a manner that will stay with us way beyond the last day of February.
As America welcomes Women’s History Month; followed by Asian Pacific American Heritage, Older Americans Month and Jewish American Heritage Month in May; I want to take it upon myself to ask everyone who understands the need for these special observances, to plan on making some move toward gaining a little bit more knowledge of and appreciation for the spotlighted groups.I hope that those who do not understand will be open to a briefing from those who do. This, of course, is only a sampling of other significant upcoming observances of various ethnic and special interest groups that make up the diverse fabric of the American culture!
Let it be known that as I make this request, it would not surprise me in the least to learn that some would say, “Why should I care about this or that group?” My response to that question is as follows: If for no other reason that is remotely obvious to you, you should care because the bliss of ignorance must be superseded by the folly of wisdom if we expect to be treated with respect, empathy and even sympathy when it is our turn. We cannot allow the unwillingness to make wholesome connections to lead us down the path of ignorance.
Newsday Jan 24 2016 (‘Dynamic, multi-ethnic art’- page E6)
The tone has been set with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Black History Month Cultural Enrichment activities leading the way to more opportunities for Americans to find that common thread that runs through the fabric of mankind. Let us not miss out on the power of cultural enrichment and social enlightenment that will subscribe to the greatness and security of our neighborhoods and country. What we do with this opportunity will augment the process through which we can make the world a more congenial place in which we can all proudly take on the responsibility of healthy engagement, and build a firmer foundation on which the next generation of the human race can stand. This mindset, by the way, is race, ethnic and gender neutral; and calls for those who are now referred to as “those people” to be equally engaged and appreciated by those who may not have given this a thought in the past.
In conclusion, I would like to offer executable tips on ways we can go about obtaining and maintaining a much-needed cultural enrichment, social enlightenment and racial harmony.
The following starter ideas can, in part, be attributed to my observations last month
- Don’t exclude yourself from discussions that are meant to uplift, empower and educate-in person, on LinkedIn, on Facebook or other social media portals-simply because you can’t see yourself relating to “those people”.“Those people” exist in all neighborhoods on all corners of the world, and could use some refreshing input laced with sensitivity and a desire to connect in a healthy way with them.
- Make it a point to converse with an associate or co-worker whose race, ethnicity or social group is being celebrated at the time. This would work well within group settings of professional and community organizations where, more often than not, people are brutally prejudged.
- If you have young children or teenagers in your life, hold a discussion with them to find out their opinion on, or knowledge of the culture or history of the highlighted group for that month. Don’t forget to share helpful resources with them. Encourage them to hold discussions with seniors in the community. This can be arranged with Senior Centers, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques etc.
- Go on a themed exploratory trip to the library, utilize google, see what Wikipedia has to say and visit museums, art galleries and other places that can assist you with a horizon-broadening experience. Write a poem on your impression, do a painting or come up with your own creative form of self-expression that would suggest growth.
- Remember that you can neither be held responsible for the atrocities your ancestors might have perpetrated on others nor be pigeonholed as the ultimate helpless victim of circumstance, if you don’t conduct yourself in ways that bring to life the negativity of past experiences or support the perpetuation of the selfless victim syndrome. We cannot wish away the mistakes of the past, but we can surely work toward improving the present climate that we have inherited by acknowledging the resulting pain, hurt and confusion; and formulating a language that will generate camaraderie and healing instead of stone-throwing, name-calling and worse!
- When in doubt, show LOVE, connect with EMPATHY and unleash KINDNESS. These three tools are versatile enough and come in color schemes that do not ever lose their luster without much effort on the part of mankind.
- Cast aside the built-in suspicion which invariably leads to defense mechanisms that keep your radar up in the company of people you are meeting for the first time. Be open to interacting with people from whom you may potentially learn something new.
- Be genuine in your interactions with others. People tend to switch off when they realize that they are dealing with the disingenuous.
West African Surface Design Workshop conducted in observance of Black History Month. Wear Your Art: An African-Inspired textile designing workshop.
The last in a series of two self-empowering workshops for college bound high school
students will take place on Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 8 :30 A.M to 2:30 P.M.
at Molloy College, Kellenberg Building, 1000 Hempstead Avenue, Rockville Centre.
Saturday’s event echoed my words, “Come dance with me and I will make you
Fishers of Men.”
I saw them wonder.
I saw their flicker of anticipation.
I saw their shadows fade.
Their opened minds,
Freedom of speech.
I saw them – comfortable within themselves,
Relaxed in their huddles.
They spoke of the “who” they could become.
They focused on self, their awakening.
And wowed themselves by discovering
That yes, there were gifts sealed within.
Yes, they could ignite the spark,
Yes, they could take flight,
Yes, they could become……………….
F. Bell (4/22/13)
Yesterday, I responded to news of a husband and wife murder-suicide and 4 innocent surviving child victims in a community where I have lived for over 20 years.
I woke up this morning to find that the North Bellmore School District had taken the lead with a public statement on how they intend to support the true victims of this seemingly senseless and selfish act that has disrupted the lives of their students. This got me thinking about ways the community can honor and embrace these children.
As updates begin to unfold the ‘facts’ of the ‘case’, there is an outpouring of sentiments expressed by community members. One such person, Laurie, commented, “there are indeed no words or donations that can help these kids”. Even as I subscribe to this thinking too, I believe there must be something else a community can do alongside other initiatives earmarked for the children that could bring about a meaningful change. Recognizing that this travesty can happen in any community around the world, I feel compelled to write this version of my post to the Bell more Patch, to address those outside the confines of the North Bellmore community.
What comes to mind in terms of a meaningful change would require us to change our way of thinking. As a community, we must do our very best to operate in the “brother’s/sister’s keeper” mode. We must resolve to refrain from turning a blind eye to dysfunctional behavior and seek help …even for our neighbors.
We are indeed our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. This, of course, will call for us to be honest with ourselves and take the proverbial moat out of our own eyes first. I cannot at the moment think of a better way to work towards ensuring that horrific happenings such as this one become a thing of the past. It is a given that education, is a necessary tool in this process. People need to know what to do, where to go, and how things work in general.
Please feel free to offer your ideas on how we can go about developing and maintaining a mentally and emotionally sound community in the name of 4 children who have some challenging times ahead…no matter what.
It will take a good village to raise these perplexed and courageous kids. The support of family, school, neighbors, friends, community organizations and well-wishers would have to step up to the plate and support these children. God always looks out for his little angels
and speaks to the hearts of his big ones too!
This is yet another instance of how the problems and decisions of grown-ups can impact the lives of children tremendously. According to initial report, I gather that “no one saw this coming”. My comment to that is , the couple did, their children did, and those very close to them did!
Is it that we as a society still have a long way to go in engendering swift action and response for our own people when it comes to the matters of the ‘heart and mind’?
There is no shame in seeking help when you find yourself in a tight moral and emotional spot. Do not worry about what people will think of you. Our children need us, for reasons too many to list here. I believe we get the picture.Organizational help and commu- nunity outreach must by now, in this 21st Century, be easily accessible in all communities .
Finally, let us not underestimate our own role and strength in making our respective communities healthier for all; particularly our children who after all, did not get to pick their parents.