February is Black History month. It is indisputable that the story of Africa’s descendants in the western hemisphere has been a long history of scarcity, lack and suffering. We have endured pain and sorrow oftentimes at the hands of others; but sometimes through our own efforts and devices, we have shortchanged ourselves.
Although we live a linear existence, the Negro, it is said, walks in circles apparently unable to make a decision or reach a goal.
Martin Luther King said about us, “The negro is willing to sacrifice this and future generations for his immediate comfort and safety.”
I have just returned from Jamaica, a predominantly black populated country. A poll was taken amongst the youths of that nation and almost 50 percent said they would forfeit their citizenship to migrate to another country. They are bitter, disillusioned and see no future or opportunities in their home land.
Indeed I remarked to my wife, who accompanied me on the trip, how sullen the looks on their faces, how sour were the attitudes and how dour the demeanor of the young people. They seemed to be lost in a fog of despair, subsisting under a cloud of depression.
I picked up a book, Our Jamaica, while there and came across an alarming statistic – 85 percent of Jamaican children are born out of wedlock and 50 percent have no registered father.
Jamaica has more murders per capita than New York City and the rampant corruption negatively affects more than 70 percent of the population.
Throughout the island, seemingly in every nook and cranny, there are vivid, breathtaking images and marks of poverty denoting a place in a constant state of disrepair.
Yet Jamaica, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, has more churches per square mile than anywhere else on earth. The Jamaican preacher is renowned worldwide as a skilled expositor of the “word.”
Therein lies the root cause of their failure and the answer to their success.
There is a disconnect between word and deed.
At this point, you must be thoroughly discouraged and sufficiently depressed. After reading the above, you are now entirely convinced that there is nothing positive in such a hopeless place where dreams are stillborn.
And you would be wrong.
History has taught us that any great social movement whose aim was the elevation of mankind and the alleviation of human suffering was either led by a man of God or whose guiding principles were rooted in the word of God.
Mahatma Gandhi, an admirer of Jesus Christ, threw off the yoke of colonialism in India.
Nelson Mandela, with the advice and support of Anglican priest Desmond Tutu, dismantled the stifling restraints of apartheid.
Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, led the fight to obtain Civil Rights for blacks in The USA.
The famous American preacher, T.D. Jakes, is fond of exhorting his listeners, “It’ll work if you work it.”
Even the decidedly infamous Rev. Ike was true in one statement, “You can’t lose with the stuff I use.”
In short, right living produces right results.
This is written in stone by the hand of the Master and applies to everyone everywhere.
So at this juncture I would like to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Tony Ward, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jones and Mr. and Mrs. Donovan Johnson of Jamaica.
Their stories are living examples to peoples of color everywhere and particularly those forlorn residents of the myriad of dreary Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards throughout this country of how to overcome- an object lesson to all those who dare not to dream or have given up on their dreams.
I had the occasion to meet these remarkable people by being a guest at the wedding of Keneil and Jodi, the son and daughter of the Wards and Joneses, respectively.
In the short time I was in their company, I discovered that they possessed the common traits resident in all successful people everywhere regardless of color or ethnicity.
They are not Bible-thumping, in-your-face Christians. Yet, they quietly demonstrate with their everyday lives a strict adherence and obedience to the word and principles of God.
They are not in and out of relationships with multiple sex partners resulting in “baby mama” and “baby daddy” dramas and children which one cannot afford to realistically and reasonably maintain.
Each couple has been married to their respective partners for many years and have labored together, thus creating a progressive, effective harmonious unit.
It is a proven fact that the principal cause of poverty and the breeding ground for crime is the single parent household.
The Joneses and the Johnsons each have only two children. Hence, both couples are able to help other family members, presently taking care of nieces in each home, thereby fulfilling MLK’s request, “As you climb the ladder of success, stop, turn around, reach down and pull someone else up with you.”
At the wedding reception, I carefully noted how often the MC referred to the work ethic of the Wards and the Jones.
The Wards are in the transportation business with a fleet of buses and trucks. Indeed, Mr. Ward acquired his first bus at the ripe old age of 20.
The Joneses are the proud owners of four pharmacies with Mrs. Jones, a licensed registered pharmacist, and Mr. Jones, a retired insurance agent, serving as the General Manager of the business.
During our stay there, Mr. Jones treated all of us to a day at the all-inclusive resort Sunset Beach of Montego Bay. He is a lifelong friend of the General Manager of that establishment who also happens to be a person of color. (Successful birds of a feather flock together.)
Afterwards, while leaving the resort Mrs. Jones advised us that she supplies medicine to all the businesses and residences in that area -- an astounding accomplishment in its own right when you consider that area is also the home of the ultra all-inclusive “Secrets” and multiple upscale condos.
In Discovery Bay, I was a guest in the home of the Johnson who own a mansion on a hill overlooking the beautiful north coast of Jamaica.
Mrs. Johnson is the CEO of the Kaiser Bauxite company in her hometown. In nearby Brownstown, Mr. Johnson owns and operates two office buildings. One building houses a pharmacy, a seafood outlet and rents space to five legal offices. The other is a medical center with all the equipment being owned by his company and the ability to cater to all dental and medical needs. He pointed out to me that all the doctor or dentist has to do is show up because everything is in place to begin work.
Mr. Jones is also the Chief Executive Officer of the community’s school for deaf children.
They are strong advocates for the power of knowledge and education presently underwriting alone, at international student rates, the matriculation of a son in Berkeley, Ca, another at Perdue, In and a niece at South Florida in Tampa, Fl.
When they first arrived in the community in which they now reside there was no primary school for young children. Mrs. Johnson got together with seven other ladies and started one.
On a personal note, I found it particularly interesting and satisfying that all these individuals are not what one would consider light-skinned. This may not seemed important until you realize how skin bleaching - in order to be socially acceptable and upwardly mobile- has reached epidemic proportions in India, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. There is an inferiority complex closely associated with people of darker skin whether it is self-afflicted or promoted from without.
Indeed I noted with keen interest, while walking in Montego Bay, that one store was trumpeting a special discount on bleaching packages.
These three couples are not bothered or hampered by that disease. They are infused with an infectious self-confidence and unmoved by that pernicious, crippling ditty,
“If you are white,you are all right,
If you are brown stick around,
If you are black,get back."
Their lives clearly and unequivocably demonstrate what Marcus Garvey meant when he declared, “If you have no confidence in self you are twice defeated in the race of life.”
They are living, breathing expressions of MLK’s admonishment to all of us, “Let a man be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.”'
They do not sit down and complain about what they do not have but rather are grateful for what they do have and arise every day and use it.
Instead of expecting better from someone else, they made a conscientious decision to expect and demand better from themselves.
I am confident that what has worked for them can work for you and I.
That in a nutshell is the central theme of the message of the heroes we study during black history month.
If you demand better from yourself, the day will surely come when you will find a better life.
We as a people must not allow their sacrifices under the most difficult of circumstances to be in vain.
If you truly believe in yourself and the God who created you, despite the odds against you, with perseverance, patience and hard work you will do better and thereby leave and bequeath a better legacy for your children and all those who follow after you.