As I write to you now I watch the movie 12 Years a Slave. This very movie is one which I have avoided. I don’t know why but it is almost as if my unconscious knows the pain in which I will be subject to sit through. It’s really strange. I watch movies like this and I can’t help but be flabbergasted by the inhuman & indecent acts African-Americans were subject to face. i just can’t understand. I get upset, angry, sad, sympathetic, etc. All kinds of emotions just begin to swirl around inside me.
I feel blessed to be alive during this time when I, as an African American kid, can live life with far more freedoms than my predecessors. I feel caught in the middle of some strange paradigm. I am thankful to God that he has given me the opportunity to learn, grow, and seek knowledge with an understanding that knowledge is a power no other thing can provide. This leads me to something further more interesting. There have been and are instances in my life, because of my race and the quality in which I speak, where I have talk to people who are not Black and seen the wheels turning in their heads as if to say, “Wow this is not what I expected. The Black male in front of me talks with such confidence and eloquence that it is astounding.” I understand this and it doesn’t bother me. I mean how can it? I sometimes get embarrassed that I get this reaction though, not necessarily for myself but for most of my fellow African Americans who perpetuate stereotypes and choose to run with the crowd instead of stand on their own two feet and use the opportunity that has been afforded them to learn and grow.
This too saddens me more than most things in life. I have this deep awareness of myself and the life I live but also that of my own race. It pains me deeply to see stereotypes held up by those who don’t understand that the world is much bigger than a single act. Every negative thing perpetuates something. Unfortunately perception is reality.
While watching the movie something was said that got me thinking about knowledge and how powerful a tool it is. A white slave-owner said to one of her slaves, 100 lashes for learning how to read. Isn’t that amazing? Even then it was understood the power reading and writing, in advancing oneself as a human being. That is a huge reason as to why reading and writing were banned among the African-American community. I fear though that the knowledge of its power has become undervalued by many in the Black community. Everything that my predecessors fought, bled, and even died for were for that freedom. To learn, grow, and advance as a culture and society. The opportunity to gain knowledge is the most important thing that we have and it dies with us if we do not exercise that opportunity, much like those who fought to provide it.
I think that’s the part that gets me the most. I am again blessed to have parents and family who made sure to stress that knowledge is power. My mom use to always say to me readers are leaders and I bought into that concept. It has lead me to where I am now.
Knowledge is power. Power is Knowledge. Both go hand in hand, never forget that.
I will use the freedom that I has been afforded to me and I hope you will too no matter your race, ethnicity, or gender.