This is the August 1, 2011 writing prompt from The Red Dress Club called Mentors. Unfortunately I was unable to link up but I wanted to post this anyway.
One of my favorite books is by Loraine Hansberry — that’s right it’s TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED, AND BLACK.
When was younger I used to call this the triple wammy! I was too young to understand that I needed to work harder than others in order for others to recognize my talents because of my color. I didn’t understand why my 2nd grade classmate couldn’t play with me anymore because her mother told her that “blacks were stupid and dirty.” I couldn’t comprehend that in my young mind how someone would think that I was stupid when I had skipped a grade to be in that 2nd grade class! I was devastated that my friend wouldn’t play with me anymore but I had an amazing teacher, who was angry enough about my experience to include a classroom lesson about how Americans differences make our country stronger! This may not seem impressive today but I assure this was quite controversial in the early 70′s and it was not a part of the state standards on curriculum.
Mrs. S. introduced us to all kinds of authors, who were all nationalities and paraphrased their biographies or autobiographies to explain to us what it was like in “their” AMERICA, and when she read from TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK something touched me.
I loved Ms. Hansberry’s story and I continue to be inspired by her daily! There have been so many times in my life when have doubted my own talent, diminished my own gifts in order to make others feel better about themselves or just surrendered my power knowing I didn’t have the confidence to follow through with my decisions because of my inexperience. But as I look back on those experiences, I reflect on how much I’ve grown, the confidence I’ve gained, and I proudly proclaim to those who doubt me or question my abilities — “You don’t get to tell me who I can be anymore”. I have surpassed the expectations of many people in spite of my age, gender, economic status and life circumstances.
Because of Mrs. S.’s care, love and “teaching outside of the box”, I am a confident, resilient, intelligent woman. I am an advocate for change and tolerance among Americas youth and I too am a TEACHER!
Thank you Mrs. S. for teaching me that I am blessed to be YOUNG GIFTED AND BLACK!
You may wonder if my friend and me ever made up. Mrs. S. made sure that that happened. In fact, we all reconnected last year via the telephone when we found out that our beloved teacher is now suffering from a brain tumor.