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.
The following is an account I wrote and presented in print to the Executive Director at the Uniondale Early Childhood Center’s first annual awards gala. As UECC prepares for its 25th anniversary dinner, I find the contents appropriate enough to share today, in this format, as an introduction to what this Early Childhood Center stands for. Needless to say, that you are invited to participate in this celebration with us. Please find the invitation and journal ad opportunity below this post.
– Madona Cole-Lacy –
I Just Can’t Keep it to Myself: The Components of a Successful Pre-K Graduation Ceremony
The Uniondale Early Childhood Center conducted their graduation and moving up ceremony today. What a joy it was to see the bright, well-groomed, and talented graduates march in on cue! It was also obvious to me that this group of children had been taught so that it would not be necessary to teach them the basics when they reach adulthood.
These children had been prepared for a lot more than reading and writing. They were way up there in the social graces department. Dr. Mary Cameron and her staff had prepared these leaders of tomorrow, in a manner that is driven by a passion that is second to none. Kudos to them for a job indeed well done! Now what was it about this ceremony that grabbed my attention? Aside from the impressive comportment of the children, the hearty rendition of the song “I believe I can fly”, there were elements present that made the occasion truly meaningful. The guest speaker, Monique Euell, an aspiring Elementary Education teacher, who will be starting her 3rd year at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, was most impressive in her delivery which comprised of a specially crafted message for each group present. As she addressed the graduates, I was excited to learn that she had actually spent time with them as a group at the center and that she was able to characterize each one of them by name. That was meaningful and what’s more? The children listened attentively! Another display of leadership was characterized by the poise, stamina and confidence of the Guest Soloist, Christina Phillips. Christina, a young lady on visit from St. Vincent. It was wonderful to see Christina so comfortable in her skin even though she was in ‘strange’ surroundings. Sydni Baker, a 9th grade student at Half Hollow High School was featured as the UECC representative on the New York Child Care coalition. Sydni visited Albany to lobby for improvements in child care and included an essay of her experience in the graduation program. Yet another leader to be reckoned with! Of note was the fact that Eric Musonza a past graduate of the Uniondale Child Care Center, received a full scholarship to Yale University.
The involvement of local public officials was also a good thing. The certificates of recognition served as a testimony that the executive director thought of her students and their accomplishments as newsworthy and important enough to invite these officials who have shown interest in the center over the years.
There were of course, many other activities that made the ceremony a grand one.
In summary, I would say that the components of this successful pre-school graduation ceremony, are as follows:
1. The involvement of young people in the program.
2. A guest speaker who knew the graduates well, due to interactions with them in the past.
3. The involvement of local public officials.
4. The overall empowerment of young people who already see themselves as leaders and role models to the graduates.
5. The dedication and passion for teaching and learning as demonstrated by the Executive Director and staff.
Madona Cole-Lacy, M.A.Ed., Program Director/Facilitator
James A. Lacy, LCSW, Mental Health Director
Madona Cole-Lacy is a registered Nassau and Eastern Suffolk BOCES Teaching Artist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Time Has Come Program Provides art-related workshops for Schools * Libraries * Faith and Community-Based Organizations.
Promotes and Supports Equality * Inclusion * Diversity.
Fosters a sense of belonging, accomplishment and pride gained from the creation of well executed culturally-inspired works of art.
Develops skills and techniques in the execution of handcrafted contemporary and multicultural textile designs and visual arts.
My quest to contribute to the making of the world a smaller place took me to Bellport High School last week. It was a pleasure to meet and interact with a mix of multi-ethnic students with the express purpose of assisting them in identifying and celebrating their respective cultural heritage and family traditions in preparation for the designing and creation of their own unique Coat of Many CulturesTM (This project is funded by a grant from South Country Education Foundation to the school)
There were students who spoke with a great sense of confidence, others who, even though they did not say it, would have preferred to introduce themselves in terms of a subculture they had created or acquired that they were obviously comfortable with. Others appeared to be disconnected from their cultural background because “they were born here” and had not been exposed to “anything” “cultural. Whatever the case may be, I stay committed to my role in the lives of these students as we work diligently toward designing a coat that will not only speak to their identity for years to come, but will take them on a journey of self-empowerment and appreciation for their cultural heritage.
(Madona Cole-Lacy with Art Students at Bellport High School – Easing Into the Creative Process Through Engagement)
As I anticipate an unpredictable yet successful execution of these series of workshops which I facilitate in Long Island and beyond, I want to highlight a few points that I believe society can bear in mind as they nurture and empower their children particularly in times like these when teachers are reporting bully related incidents that are targeted at children who may not necessarily represent the race and cultural background of those who torment them.
1. If we instill a strong sense of belonging in our children, there will be no need to worry about them being victimized by others. There are no “others” in an all-inclusive world where people work together for the common good of humanity.
2. It is important to maintain family traditions that reinforce cultural values.
3. Parents should do an ancestry search, and share information about family heritage with their children.
4. We should research and/or review the history of our cultural/ethnic/racial/religious group, and hold family discussions regarding this background and how it currently impacts each family member.
5. Promote social studies and history education in schools that is fully inclusive of all ethnic, racial, religious and cultural groups. This should emphasize their values and contributions to humanity.
We can’t know where we’re going until we know who we are and where we as people have been or been through.
Learn more about my art-related personal development and social/cultural enrichment workshops tailored to schools and community organizations here.
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.
Since I haven’t quite decided on a suitable term to adequately capture how I feel, I will settle for one that conveys the most predominant feeling right now. It is with humility that I embrace this time of my life, to reconnect with the world, and make a deliberate and significant stride toward normalcy since the recent passing of my father. As one who prides herself on being a perpetual student of life’s lessons, I must acknowledge a major loss such as this, as one which I have also viewed within the context of the psyche of Family Adult Caregivers around the world. I share your loss and feel your pain, even as I ‘hear’ my Papa urging me to keep the ball rolling, and to never lose sight of my goal! The drive to keep going should never leave us! I, not unlike a host of other adult children of the recently departed, have a lot to be thankful for when I take stock of the rich legacy my father left behind, not just for me, but for many others around the world. I feel ever so blessed!
Getting Back On Track
With the support of my Board, Program Director, Volunteers and Well-Wishers; I am looking forward to the upcoming Your Time For Community Networking Soiree – an opportunity for Long Island’s high school students, as well as current college-bound high school graduates, to experience an intergenerational professional and social relationship with a diverse pool of male and female community role models representing the arts, business & and professional world, academia, human services and local politics.
All Participants can look forward to interacting with an impressive line-up of motivational presenters and Resource Persons which includes current college students, professors, medical doctors, community activists and faith based leaders, mental health practitioners, and public officials – all of whom care about the well-being and academic success of our youth.
Other highlights include: lunch, entertainment, high tea, beauty and heath activities, giveaways and more!
If you have a burning desire to touch the lives of our youth in a special way, and would like to be a part of this initiative, kindly contact us.
For more details please visit our website: www.yourtime4liny.org