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Photo courtesy of the White House

The collective gift of Ava DuVernay, Maya Angelou, Tyler Perry, Michael Jackson and Will Packer is the gift of creative power. The collective gift of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Dorothy Height, Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, and HBCUs is the gift of intellectual prowess. The African American community has always benefited when we understood it was important to give a gift to ourselves first.

Michael Jackson’s gift was a voice heard around the world, and recognized on every dance floor, but he was seriously misunderstood and vilified in some quarters before his death. The Rev. Al Sharpton eulogized Jackson, but those who didn’t understand the artist and didn’t stand by him during his trials and tribulations were not there. But there were those who were there to recognize his genius and praise his gifts. Jackson left gifts that we will have forever as long as we can hear his music and watch his dance moves.

We don’t seem to understand the sacrifices by numerous activists and civil rights icons like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, Malcolm X, Dr. King, and more recently, members of the Black Lives Matter movement in using their collective genius to advocate for justice for our community. It is a precious gift that we ought to rejoice in. That’s something to shout about. To take pride in. To be grateful for.

We must move beyond just being singers or athletes or entertainers. Not that those gifts shouldn’t be celebrated. It’s that we should yearn to achieve more than that, collectively. There are other gifts to recognize and extol. We are inventors. We are the creators of phenomenal resource programs. We are wizards of science. We are engineers and doctors, and collectively, we must begin to understand that we deserve much better gifts. Like the the gift of respect. The gift of not killing one another. The gift of loving one another. The gift of being a good parent. The gift of being a good friend. The gift of reading a book aloud. The gift of a forgiving heart.

Let’s choose gifts collectively that is life-giving, life-affirming and life-sustaining. So when we hear a song like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” we can say that those were the bad old days. We can say there are no longer too many of us dying, and mothers are no longer crying, because we have collectively decided to give ourselves the best gift of all — peace.

Munson Steed

Founder and publisher of rolling out's parent company Steed Media Group.