I trust that you are doing well today.
This is just a short letter to encourage you to learn more about your heritage and where you came from.
This is more important than you may think. It is crucial to your self-esteem, confidence and vision for the future. You see, having knowledge of your history will help make you a wiser person today, and give you a better idea as to where to go in the future. As they say, a person who does not know where he came from does not know where he is going.
Now, this important knowledge is gained in two basic ways: One way is by word of mouth: i.e., through the words of parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents. And, of course, the second way is through reading and studying good black history books.
In my last letter, I exhorted you to speak to older black men in general. In this letter, I want to encourage you to take some time and visit your older relatives, and ask them some questions about how it was “back when.” Ask questions like, what did they go through? How did they handle racism? What were my ancestors like? Where did they live? What did they do? What kind of personalities did they have? What made them what they were? What interests, desires and dreams did they have? Dear Y.B.M., you can learn a great deal about yourself by learning about your people. You can learn from their successes as well as their failures and mistakes.
Earlier, I also mentioned the value of books in this regard. Simply put, it would help you greatly to read two or three Black American history books as well as history books on Africa and two or three general American history books. If you read, study, and absorb such books, you will be head and shoulders above the crowd as far as how to handle present situations and people, and as to how to plan for the future.
A good working knowledge of history is crucial. By taking heed of this humble advice, you will gain a perspective on life that is rare among young people today. It will give you a proper perspective on your role and place in America and the world. With this knowledge, you will be able to more successfully relate to your own people as well as to others.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – George Santayana
Go back, son, so you can go forward.
P.T. (Power Thoughts):
“It is impossible to love ourselves without having an affection for Africa.” – Randall Robinson
“Our Black heritage must be a foundation stone we can build on, not a place to withdraw to.” – Colin L. Powell
“We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.” – Langston Hughes
“Let us hold up our heads and with firm and steady tread go manfully forward.” – Booker T. Washington
“We must give our children a sense of pride in being Black. The glory of our past and the dignity of our present must lead the way to the power of our future.” – Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
“I can move between different disciplines because I am essentially a storyteller, and the story I want to tell is about black people. I always want to share my great satisfaction at being a black man at this time in history.” – Ossie Davis
This chapter is an excerpt from my book, Letters to Young Black Men. Click here to find out more or to purchase the book online.