In this silent space, this still moment I look at a picture of myself eating while dining with friends on a night out. It’s a simple picture with nothing special about it except the casualness of my contentment. In the picture I sit at a table eating amongst Whites, Blacks, Mexicans, and other races. I dine on roasted chicken on nice white plates with heavy shinny silverware. I’m relaxed in my seat enjoying a good time. As I sit across my bed observing this picture , an awe-consuming recollection comes to mind. The picture had so much to say about me with out saying a word. In this photograph I sit with no worry, no prejudices , no shame. No inhibited feelings, no guilt, or sense of being less than. I am simply me. At the same time I also sit with an ignorance. A ignorance that many of my ancestors never had the pleasure of experiencing in their lifetime.
If you go back in time it’s not rocket science to know that some of my not to distant relatives were slaves. The word slave carries such a heavy vibration on it in the first place. To be a slave meant to work from sun up to sun down with no pay, to endure harsh punishment and cruelty without any justice. Being a slave meant to undergo criticism and belittlement with out defense. Although that description weighs heavy on the conscious, it still is a mild way of explaining the true meaning of what it means to be a slave. So it is hard to imagine at times that, not to long ago, my great-great grandfather was a slave. My great-great grandfather was a slave who bore my great grandfather, who then bore my grandfather, who then bore my father, who then bore me. This is a parallel cycle extending through a large percentage of the entire African-American population that coincidentally my generation overlooks or doesn’t pay attention to. Those wishes and hopes that my great-great grandfather only dreamed of in his days living are actual realities that I live in today!
My fraternal Grandmother, who picked cotton for pay along side her grandmother while she was a young child, speaks of the long hot work days she endured before she finally moved to Cleveland as a young adult in the 1940’s. Now a days my 77 year old Grandmother only speaks of how much love she carries for me and the many hopes and dreams she prays I see in my lifetime. In her eyes I represent and carry the blissful freedom of innocent youth. A freedom quit different from the one she experienced as a child growing up in Tennessee. The freedom that I have been so ignorantly born into brings about a crisp emotional unexplainable love from my Grandmother that I probably would never understand. A love of hope, freedom, and tenderness for such a beautifully blessed child.
As I walk n this world, as I talk, eat, sleep, breath in this world I carry upon me the dreams of not just my own ancestor’s, but the hopes and aspirations of all who at one point were slaves in the land of the free, America. What a profound solitary discovery! It is true that you let go of the past to move forward, but you must also look back at the past to know how far you’ve come! A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, and even though this may not be a thousand it sure is a heck of a lot that were inspired from a glance.
To be young, Black, and Free! What a Blessing!