Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


10 Messages of Wisdom We Need to Give Black Youth

Sometimes I think we really over-complicate the basic messages and lessons we should be teaching our children. We can't overlook the nuts and bolts our parents and grandparents taught us.

An article by Ernest Owens posted yesterday on The Huffington Post reminds us of some of these basics. He covers a number of important reminders that many of us might take for granted, but that our young people need to hear consistently, and be prompted to reflect on.

The major points follow. Certainly worth reading the full article.

Lately, I have had the pleasure of spending quality time with my younger brother. Seeing him play with his fellow peers has felt more like ethnography than just playtime in the backyard. One thing that is certain and upsetting: The current issues that black adults are fighting about today are being carried out by their children. The colorism, teasing about blackness, and masculinity is being expressed at micro levels. Sadly, I have begun to fear that if anyone isn't out there encouraging the youth more socially, the cycle will continue.

...So here is what I've learned and my only hope is that others will carry it on:

  1. You are entering a world of prejudgment, but you can still redefine yourself.
  2. Don't ever let anyone question your blackness -- it's not their right.
  3. Success is not only through fame and fortune, but hard work and integrity.
  4. Athletes and entertainers are not the only aspiring role models -- search for mentors in your community and elsewhere.
  5. Being light or dark-skinned makes you no better or inferior of a person.
  6. Boys, it's okay to express your emotions; and girls, it's okay to exercise independence.
  7. Education is, and will always be, essential -- no matter what career you choose.
  8. Words are stronger than fists. Use them more.
  9. Let your inner beauty be shown through your personal creativity, not just from pop culture.
  10. You are smart and entitled to happiness just like anyone else in the world.

And concluding...

Lastly, I hope that many read this as a way to strengthen the black youth of today rather than just dismiss it as another guy preaching respectability politics. I am only 22-years-old and while many before me have tried to encourage blacks to "be just like the rest of them" or learn how other races do it, I am instead trying to pass down lessons that I have learned coming up so that one day my younger brother won't have to grow up to see lists like this or wonder why there aren't as many visible high achieving black role models outside of sports and entertainment that he can publicly look up to.