by Froswa Booker-Drew
My daughter is about to graduate from high school. As parents, we are elated by not only this accomplishment but the major milestones along the way. She’s done exceptionally well in school—4.1 GPA, top ten percent in her class, and a perfect score on AP English Exam– but she’s been a great kid overall. That’s not to say we haven’t had our moments but she is brilliant, compassionate, insightful and funny.
As we plan for college, I find myself worried. Not because she’s leaving but because of the challenges she will face in a world filled with divisive dialogue, stereotypes laced with fiction, hatred and fear. I worry because of what she must deal with as a black woman in a world that is still experiencing firsts for people of African descent. My faith says she will be fine. My maternal instincts cause me to have a level of alarm.
When I attended college at the University of Texas at Arlington, I was fortunate in that I had roommates who didn’t look like me, yet respected, valued, and loved me. More than 20 years later, many of us are still friends. We all learned from one another and saw it as an opportunity for growth. That’s not to say I didn’t deal with issues because of the color of my skin by other students, faculty, and in the larger community. As a country, we’ve made significant progress and yet, racism continues to rear its ugly head. Today, college campuses run rampant of incidents of hostility against people of color. A young woman in Connecticut was poisoned by her roommate. Instagram videos and screenshots of conversations expose the hatred against African American students and as much as I want to believe there has been progress, I also realize that we still have more to go. Some of the fights I faced in college, I hoped my daughter would not have to experience the battles I did and yet, I know that my ancestors fought hoping that I would not have to endure their challenges either.
My daughter stands on the shoulders of so many known and unknown individuals who fought for equity. I needed her to know that she is an American and that the contributions to this country are endless by African Americans. Her history is more than Black History. It is a part of American history. This month is not only for African Americans to reflect but for all people to become aware that many of the things we all benefit from or enjoy are a result of the blood, sweat and tears of African Americans who wanted to make a difference for their families, for their communities, for their country.
I often wonder about the struggles that my father-in-law faced, a black man who was in the military and served his country. He married a Japanese woman and brought her back to the states after his tour. They had three beautiful children, a son and two daughters. He went on to put himself through school at night ultimately retiring from the IRS. Their lives were not easy. Their son, my husband, has had to balance the realities of race as a biracial man in America.
I grew up in Louisiana with a father who was an entrepreneur and college graduate and a mom who finished only a year of college. She grew up in a shotgun house in poverty. My dad’s father was in the military and my grandmother cleaned the homes of white families in Shreveport. I grew up watching my family work hard, go to church, and help other family members who were struggling. Their hard work, belief in me and love for Christ pushed me to be the first PhD in our family.
Black history month is more than Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Malcolm X. It is Septima Clark, Roy Wilkins, Madame CJ Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, A. Phillip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin—the lesser known masterminds. Black History Month is also my father-in-law, Charles Drew (not the famous physician and deceased), my grandparents, Thelma and Louis Booker (deceased) and my parents, Dorothy Booker-Petterway and Willie Booker (deceased). These are shoulders of giants that I stand on, that my daughter stands on that will serve as an inspiration for her to do more and be more than any of us could ever imagine.
My prayer for this month is that Christians will take this opportunity to discuss the rich contributions of African Americans in our families, neighborhoods, cities, country and the world. More importantly, that we extend these conversations and celebrations beyond the month to explore, educate and inform our circles of influence to do the same. We are called to love and I hope that the Christian community will model the behavior and lead the way in breaking down barriers to build others up instead of isolating, intimidating or condemning.
What can you do:
- Read as much as you speak. A great start is the book by Jeffrey C. Stewart, “1001 Things Everyone Should Know about African American History”
- If you have children or grandchildren, consider purchasing books from the list that BookRiot has compiled: http://bookriot.com/2018/02/02/childrens-books-for-african-american-history-month/
- Share what you learn and speak up when you see injustice. Being silent isn’t an option. My mother says when we know better, we must do better.
- Listen more. Scripture demands it. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 (NIV)
- Connect to those who are different. If everyone in your circle looks like you and thinks like you, your circle is too small. Trust me, heaven will NOT look that way. Check out Revelation 7:9, James 2:1-26, Malachi 2:10; Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:28 which are just a few that point to the diversity that exists within the kingdom.
- Pray but don’t stop there. “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) I love this quote from GotQuestions.org, “Faith without works is dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart.”
Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Ph.D., is the National Community Engagement Director for U.S. Programs at World Vision.
She lives in Dallas and represents the TxCCDN’s Board of Directors for Region 6.