Every day I am reminded that I am a nobody, and I don't suspect that will ever change. It started before I was born to a father whose face I vaguely remember seeing and a mother who I first laid eyes on at the age of 11. I was a grown man when I first learned my grandmother's, on my father's side, name and laid eyes on her, it was a picture of her obituary! As I sat there staring at the image of her, it dawned on me that I had lived an entire life without having any contact with her or any of my biological father's family! Her son, my father at 23 years old, was murdered when I was only four; I had briefly laid eyes on him for the first-time days before his expiry. I guess it was a bit of irony that the first and only time I ever spoke to my father, I was dressed in my Sunday's finest on my way to my job as the flower boy in the local funeral parlor-the very same one that would bury him a few days later! I was told by my grandmother, on my mother's side, that he had been shot and killed. At four ye ars o ld, I kind of understood the finality of death, as I had witnessed the stillness of it many times in my duties as the funeral parlor's flower boy! Before that encounter with him I did not know my mother nor my father. My grandmother, on my mother's side, was the light of my life back then and life was very good to me. Even though, we lived in a one room house, I wanted for nothing, I was loved, cared for, and I had a job!
Back then, not having your mother or father around was not necessarily a death sentence! In fact, children like me were better off as we lived with old-school grandparents who were generally at an age where they understood and appreciated the responsibilities of raising and nurturing a child. The lure of the streets, however, turned out to be too much of a malevolent temptation for both my father and mother. It was the streets that provided them with a temporary lift from their inter-generational day-to-day struggles. Folks my grandfather and grandmother's age got a lift from there inter-generational day-to-day struggles by immersing themselves into their family's survival and the church. They worked from before sun up to sun down in the fields doing the biddings of those who exploited every inch of their essence, for wages barely above slavery. When the sun went down, they took a lift from their inter-generational day-to-day struggles by devoting time to their families and the church, as that gave them the will to rejuvenate their bodies, minds, and spirts for the next day's struggles.
By the 1950's, however, things were slowly changing, my father and mother's generation needed a different lift from the same inter-generational day-to-day struggles that burdened their parents. At young ages, they were required to work in the fields and as domestic house servants all day, drinking and partying half the night, in the back woods of the south, became there lift from their inter-generational day-to-day struggles. This life style left them little time and energy for children and church; even so, their careless life style enabled them to have unwanted and unplanned babies at very early ages. So, in a manner of speaking, much like too many of today's neglected children, I was doomed before I was even conceived, by two young parents that desperately needed a life style that was far-removed from working for, what amounted to, slave wages and the responsibilities of nurturing and raising children. Still, to this day, great grandparents and grandparents are raising their children and their childr e n's children, and the church and the streets still offer different segments of the community a lift from one's inter-generational day-to-day struggles. In some way things have changed, and in too many ways, unfortunately, things remain the same.
For hundreds of years, securing and maintaining basic human rights, education, employment, economic self-sufficiency, and healthy communities for day-to-day struggling families have served as long-standing inter-generational struggles for the African brought to and born in America.
A steady diet of high unemployment, homelessness, violent crimes, exposure to inadequate and inappropriate social and educational experiences coupled with a seemingly unabated flow of illegal drugs and guns are the main ingredients that constitute today's inter-generational day-to-day struggle, within struggling 21st century Americanized African communities. When it comes to these challenges, it seems as if Americanized Africans are locked into some type of merciless time warp!
In 1899, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois described these same exact challenges when he witnessed extreme impoverished conditions in a distressed Philadelphia community: "Murder sat at their doorstep, police were their government, social and academic paucity prevailed, and philanthropy dropped in with periodic advice," wrote Dr. DuBois (1899). Since then, Dr. DuBois' talented-tenth pool has grown tremendously, collectively their political, economic, and intellectual capacity is at an all-time high! Yet, the Americanized African community, as a whole, still struggles with the same inter-generational day-to-day struggles Dr. Dubois described some 220 years ago. For 220-years, the stresses of this dysfunctional way of living have created a suffocating inter-generational day-to-day struggle that causes those who agonize, within this environment, to explore various means of taking a lift from one's reality.
There's no greater example of this than what I see and hear as I teach young adults who are proteges of today's struggling 21st century Americanized African communities. In the Spring of 2019, I taught a class at a local community college for struggling high school students, and it became very clear to me, very early in the course, that not only did they struggle socially and academically but they also struggled with a meaningless sense of purpose. Their sense of meaningless is grounded in extreme parental neglect, hopelessness, exposure to constant deadly violence, high unemployment, and, in too many cases, of undiagnosed/untreated mental health and other neuro-diverse conditions, which represent their day-to-day struggle. They have also adopted a means of drifting from their day-to-day reality, as they live in a constant comatose state instigated by an overload of unhealthy messages on YouTube, social media, drugs, alcohol, excessive partying, and the pursuit of careless sex. It was difficult to get th em to understand and appreciate that, these coping strategies only provide a fleeting lift from that which drives their day-to-day hurt, pain, and disappointments.
In his song, Easy Shanking, the eminent Bob Marley wrote: "Excuse me while I light my spliff, Oh LORD, I gotta take a lift, from reality I just [have] to drift (1978)." For hundreds of years, various means of drifting from one's reality, within the Americanized African community, have served as coping mechanisms that help withstand day-to-day living. In an article published by, Good Therapy, "Coping mechanisms are the strategies people often use in the face of stress and/or trauma to help manage painful or difficult emotions. Coping mechanisms can help people adjust to stressful events while helping them maintain their [immediate] well-being (2018). This author takes it one step further, as he is convinced that it is only through GOD's Love, Protection, Guidance, and Forgiveness that the African brought to and born in America have been able to continue surviving and striving while enduring some long-standing unfathomable living conditions. Otherwise, the inter-generational day -to-day struggles associated with extreme neglect, gun related murders, crime, violence, abuse, and exploitation would have long since extinguished America's Americanized African populace. I envision that one-day more of Dr. DuBois' talented tenth will join ranks and serve as boot straps for struggling Americanized African communities, using their education, compassion, skills and talents to address and ultimately eliminate the inter-generational day-to-day struggles that suffocate the potential of GOD's most tyrannized children.