Dear Resident

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Dear Resident:

Please forgive me for not greeting you in the manner to which I hope you have become accustomed. That was done in the article that I originally wrote for this issue of RJ. But after much observation and many recent experiences, I feel the need to address a more important issue – “Us.” Us being you, I, me, we – Black Women. I recently had an opportunity to watch a television show on one of the Public Broadcasting channels about how Black women are and have been perceived by people throughout history. Of course, the show confirmed what I have always believed about Black women. We are some of the most beautiful women on Earth. We take beauty through every vein of shape, color, form and fashion. From one end of the spectrum to the other. Admittedly, at times we are even awed by each other’s beauty. The show went on to bring out how men of all races describe us as “most desirable.”

And how plantation mistresses were threatened by our presence, which accounts for the “Mammy” type of slave being present in their homes. And again, admittedly, at times we feel threatened by each other. But that’s another talk show. And now that I have lauded the strength of our beauty, it is time to take on, head first, our greatest weakness. So, after much thought and reflection and polling many Black women, without disagreement from any, I proceed …

Generally, I have observed, as a rule, that Black women have very little or no respect for each other. I have also observed that Black men have a great deal of respect for each other. Perhaps this is the result of no one else, historically, having had respect for them in America. I have noticed that Black men do not pass each other without speaking, are willing to help each other for the most part and gather often in small groups in barber shops, bars, on corners and various other places on a regular basis in support of each other. This is probably what accounts for the success of last year’s Million Man March. On the other hand, Black women hardly speak to each other in passing, are not as willing to help each other and for the most part gather only as part of a club or organization.

Most importantly, I think that we have translated that disrespect to our children. Whenever I hear someone ask the question, “What’s wrong with these children?” I always answer, “Us.” Men included. Children are the product of “our” society – that society singularly being our home and collectively being our communities. Disrespect in children, once fostered, seems to become a constant state, as is the case with some adults. Their disrespect is directed toward everyone and everything. A child’s disrespectful posture is usually preceded by the statement, “My mother said …” I also believe that our disrespect is a translation of our dissatisfaction with our individual and collective situations.

Unfortunately, today, just as the white male is the nucleus of his community, like it or not, Black women are the nucleus of ours. And if we want our families and communities to thrive, we must become most respectful of each other, pass that respect on to our children and work together to achieve success. We are as strong as we are beautiful. We can build communities where our are children can become strong Black men and women in every sense. If we do not, we will continue to “cry out” as our children, grandchildren and future generations to come are laid to waste at the hands of our communities. For ultimately, if one of us is a little bad off, we’re all a little bad off.

The following is an excerpt from the “Last Will and Testament of Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), to which we are all heirs. I leave you love. Love builds. It is positive and helpful. “Love thy neighbor” is a precept which could transform the world if it were universally practiced. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. As long as Negroes are hemmed into racial blocs by prejudice and pressure, it will be necessary for them to band together for economic betterment. I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people. The world around us really belongs to youth, for youth will take over its future management. We have a powerful potential in our youth and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends – 1997. At least 42 years have passed and we still face the same issues. Individually, there are many Negroes (Blacks) who have made great strides. But collectively, it would seem that we have not taken a step since Dr. King took his last. If we’re not trying, we have to try. If we’re trying, we have to try harder. And if we’re trying hard, we have to succeed.

I would like to take this opportunity to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Million Man March in memory of Marion “Nzinga” Stamps. Nzinga is an African name that means “Warrior Queen.” Today Nzinga continues to “wage war” and support the Black man through her many achievements. Ladies, we were born queens. We must become warriors. Like Nzinga I believe whole-heartedly in supporting the Black man. The Million Woman March does not strike me as support.

Enough said.

Photo by Patricia Johnson-Gordon. Melody by Marion “Nzinga” Stamps

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