The African American Hall of Fame Is a Place for Honor and for Our Children to Stake Their Claim
Rarely do we receive the applause and the accolades that are too often afforded to sometimes less than deserving celebrities these days. When we take inventory and read through the pages of our lives stories, we seldom think that others may have taken note and there may be honors in store for the unsuspecting everyday woman or man.
I think of all of the numerous Halls of Fame and how many legendary African Americans have been inducted for one achievement or another, primarily in music and sports. It was the Hall of Fame for Muhammad Ali, and, of course, the Hall of Fame for Michael Jordan too. We celebrate the man and his brand on and off the court to this day, and then we give pause and wonder if in any particular way, whether he is worthy for anything other than his play.
Is he famous for his giving, what says thee? Do we include him in the same company as other noted African Americans so that he can lay claim to the same fame as Oprah, who so impresses you and me. Does he hear and respond to the same call of one who has given millions to Morehouse College and aided in the pursuit of knowledge? Who shines as brightly as those who have abandoned all fear, and used the fame to fight for causes so dear? The eradication of cultural degradation and social humiliation, are the charges of an African American nation.
Others shamefully hid in their closets, until Oprah expressed that it is not what you knew, but it is what you know now that should lead you to make your mark in time and fame, adding that you can’t allow the shame to keep you from opening your heart, and wallowing in pain. Pour it all out and you may discover that you were not the only child abused, and you can, in fact, recover. But we thank you for sharing who you are and you graciously go on to follow that star.
We wonder if it makes sense for all of those who are famous to get a Grammy for singing real loud, or moving us emotionally with songs that make us proud. We plan weddings and funerals and celebrations too, to be accompanied by those Grammy winners, that’s what we do.
But shouldn’t there also be a Hall of Shame for those who rap misogynistic rhymes. Shouldn’t there be a Hall of Shame for those songs that are wrong? Should we recognize those abusers who have been users of our time and their lives, who write negatively, and humiliate you and me and cause us such strife. Saying the N-word or singing about B’s surely deserves some reaction from you and me. But we are shamefully celebrity struck, so to keep from rambling, I’ll refrain.
I happened to be inducted into my high school’s Hall of Fame recently. I locked eyes with people I hadn’t seen in so many years, I was stirred with emotion and some were moved to tears. It meant something to my family and to me too, you see. It was something I didn’t see coming and it was rare and great moment. But I wondered if I had done enough or made the most of every moment in time. If I had given enough and chosen to mentor the same. I wondered how I’d touched others and would I do a good job, so that when people said that I was in the Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t find myself persecuted in the Hall of Shame.
I think about the fact that I graduated high school, even though my mother worked and my father was often not in the house, they and my stepfather helped me along the way. Thanks to my parents I was not only expected to finish school you see, I had to go to college, it was the utmost and there was no other possibility.
Fifty percent dropout rate. The tears are rolling down all of our ancestors’ eyes, where have we gone wrong in wanting to be in the Hall of Fame for a science and math prize. And then I wonder why we don’t have a Hall of Shame for African American executives who don’t advocate for community upliftment and personal fulfillment. I wonder why we don’t surround and beat down those companies that make profits off our community in their stores. But maybe it’s our own insecurity and low self-esteem this day, that we hope just to get along and that issues of racism and the lack of resources will just go away.
I encourage you to think of the things that you would say, if you were inducted into your own Hall of Fame. For most who have given college speeches it is only right that you motivate those who will soon face, uncertain futures, in a rapidly changing place. So we charge them up for that day and tell them funny stories and to be prepared. “You’re the best that the world has to offer, you are our future leaders,” we say. And then shamefully, we go and shake our heads when we walk away. When we think about the 50 percent that didn’t make it to graduation day, and the other 50 percent of their friends who didn’t help or make them study too. Instead, they watched them go in the direction of using various devices in life that destroy dreams and lead to that Hall of Shame, and hindered that brother or sister who could have made it into the Hall of Fame.
Well, I was surprised and I want to say thanks to all those that helped me make it when I paused or nearly stumbled too. Those who helped me be the best and do the best that I could do. I always remember the quote “that anything less than your best has already been done.” I hope the African American community can shine a brighter light on what can and should be done. So that those issues that make us ashamed about the lessons learned also cause us to reflect about where we are today. We can overcome the distractions that cause our children to drop out and using mind-numbing drugs or lure them to crime and the materialism that is keeping them out of the Hall of Fame and leading them to lives permanently injured and stained with shame.