Wise & Young

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Who is Josephine Baker?!??!?!?!?!!?!!

Growing up my mom would always say “Boy, wait till you get out in the real world and realize how much you’ve been exposed to” I used to just think there she goes again thinking she’s going above and beyond the call of duty. But I’m finding something out that I would probably never admit to her face, that she was right. Slowly but surely as I talk to my peers I am beginning to realize that I was raised, well differently from most folks. I cannot say better or worse because those terms are subjective and I can only say that in my conversations and experiences with people around my age that those differences have become glaringly apparent. Probably the most glaring is knowledge of self. Not knowledge of self in that 5 per centers daily mathematics you are God type way. But in knowing from once you came, and the people that came before you and how they have not only shaped but both helped and hurt how people view you, and how you view yourself. For instance, as a African-American male my mom made sure that I would know what peoples expectations were of me based on stereotypes and but tempered that with the knowledge that I can and will be expected to live out all my dreams regardless of what lays in my path. The way this was achieved was through exposure, ever since I could speak English I could read it, and my mom had me reading and watching shows and being exposed to everything that dealt with the African-American experience in the U.S. and abroad. She had me enrolled in African-American private schools where history was taught with an Afro-centric view of things. Growing up I thought that everyone knew as much about African-American history and the experience thereof as I did. Slowly but surely I began to realize that this is not the case.

Today I was talking to one of the students that I work with and how this whole multi-dimensional superstar could be traced back to people like Josephine Baker, and I got the blankest stare like I had just asked her to explain the theory of relativity. So I inquired, do you know who Josephine Baker is? I was then shocked to learn that they had no clue who she was, so then I started to call up some of friends and some of them had a vague notion of who she was and others were just unaware of her existence. Now, I would be disheartened but understanding of this, if I had asked who was Ben Carson, Charles Diop, Garret Morgan, Charles Drew, or even Gil Scott-Heron, but Josephine Baker? I mean that’s just plain sad.

How can people expect to grow if they do not know from the rich soil that they are sowed from? What incentive is there to reach for the stars if you don’t realize that being in the Heavens is your birthright? We can see this today; so many young black youths are out there hustlin’ slangin’ rock, shooting hoops, singing, and rhymin’ thinking that those are viable ways of changing their circumstance. I am not one to ruin anyone’s dreams but at the same point the very numbers of people who are willing to risk jail time, physically condition themselves to be the next LeBron, practice for hours a day to sing or sit down and write melodic poetry to syncopated beats shows the desire of young people to emulate what they see and means of changing their life. Now just imagine if these same young people were to put forth the same energy to emulate other great African-Americans throughout history. I truly think that young people would, not because they will want to emulate the people per se but if they know that you are capable of greatness in all that you achieve then achieve it all. It goes back partly to the power of positive thought if you are fed positive images of yourself you are going to feel better about yourself and in turn do better.

I thank my mother for instilling in me knowledge of self.

Just my thoughts….


  • I know I just liked the movie with Lynn Whitfield! LOL... but seriously, you are right. It's a shame that most kids think that black history is onyl limited to rap and r&b entertainers or athletes. People don't know who Marian Anderson, Sojourner Truth, Maggie Walker, etc. are. It's truly ashame. Kudos to your mom, too!

    By Blogger Virginia Slim, at 8:52 AM  

  • Can someone give him an AMEN! You have always amazed me with your knoweldge. You will actualy like my girlfriend. I work with the youth and I am amazed at how many of them do not acknowlege their history. Working with African American tens who are middle class in Springfield...and well of region of Fairfax County. They are actually condition to believe that it is ok to be Loud, Black, and Ghetto. I just know from what Dr.Cooke use to tell me, "Knowledge is Key, and Education Empowers." Have a blessed day

    By Anonymous ali, at 10:54 AM  

  • Thumbs up to you and your mom. If more black people knew where they came from, it would be easier for us as a 'people' to decide where we are going.

    By Blogger LUVIN ME, at 3:33 PM  

  • Josephine was the original diva.

    By Blogger ProfessorGQ, at 3:41 PM  

  • It's funny how people don't know the first thing about why GW really freed the slaves but they know how many point LeBron scored in his last game....I love how you make me think and you always amaze me with your vast knowledge on life....

    By Blogger Honey-Libra, at 5:25 PM  

  • but i bet you they know the game and 50 cent's real names.

    By Blogger Karamale, at 10:38 AM  

  • hey,

    i agree with your on all levels with regards to the lack of awarness among african americans of our great history...it is tragic. the question we must ask is how we go about addressing this issue.... sending more black kids off to african american owned and run schools won't solve the problem, because they tend to be on the expensive side and in short supply, and public school is making the great leaps toward offering courses specifically geared to african american history, and our people don't seem to be interested in knowing our history...so what is it that we are to do.... i would say that the best route is through our public school system, but not before major reform, and adequate tax dollars....

    By Blogger P. Alonzo Harris Jr., at 2:10 PM  

  • there is nothing like self awareness...

    By Blogger feels good b n FREE, at 9:21 AM  

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