I am posting the poster below in honor of my father's birthday yesterday and his never ending love for Nina Simone.
I did not always appreciate Nina Simone's music just like I did not always appreciate my father's seemingly constant storytelling. But once I went off to college I started to find new meaning in her music and his stories. Suddenly, I understood exactly what type of strange fruit was hanging from the poplar trees. Suddenly I knew exactly where Welborn street was.
Children may not always understand the stories we tell them in the moment. They may seem like they are too busy trying to race back to the TV, or impatiently waiting for you to finish speaking so that they can check their text messages. But they are listening. We are listening even when we don't realize it. My father would tell me stories about growing up on the hardscrabble streets of Atlanta's West End. Then years later bits and pieces of his memories would come rushing back to me when I exited Spelman College's wrought iron side gate, waltzed down "the strip" and took a wrong turn down an old street.
I knew who my heroes and heroines were because my parents told me all about them while I was growing up. Even when I was one of the only, or often, the only black kid in the honors and AP classes, I knew exactly who my heroes were. I wasn't looking up to basketball players and movies stars, I was thinking about Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Arnedia Magby, Neil Degrasse Tyson. My parents wrapped me in the strength and the power of my ancestors' memories and pointed out that if so and so the former slave/poverty-raised-child could do something, then I certainly could too.
Our children's heroes and heroines should be more than the people they see on TV. We should all be looking up to the many incredible people who came before us for strength in the face of the many obstacles that life throws in our way.