Del Williams


We Need to Expand Who We Consider Our African American Heroes

1 comment

When you turn on a TV or read the news, you would think that the only African Americans doing anything are in sports or entertainment. Some look up to them as heroes. I would contend that our views of heroes are limited. Somehow many who have changed the world are ignored in favor of those who appeal to our vanity. For a people who were forced into Slavery, the contributions African Americans have made speak for themselves.

Harriet Tubman freed hundreds through the Underground Railroad. There is even discussion of her being placed on the $20 bill.

Frederick Douglass was a writer, speaker, and advocate for the abolishment of slavery. He was befriended by President Lincoln. 

Oprah Winfrey is a household name due to a show, but she is also one of the top philanthropist who sent thousands to school, built a school in South Africa, and more. She was the first African American woman to own a TV Studio (Harpo). After retiring from her daily talk show she founded a TV network (OWN) . Her word still can sellout a book or make a stock rise.

President Barack Obama is an African American in the highest office in the land. Considering America’s history of slavery, and that at the time of his birth, his parent’s relationship was illegal in most of America, this is quite the accomplishment.

Condoleezza Rice served as Secretary of State. Again an accomplishment. A woman who started out learning piano, and became an authority on Russia and International relations.

Colin Powell served under multiple Presidents from Joint Chief of Staff to Secretary of State. The retired 4-star General, used the military to get the education and opportunities he needed.

The Library of Congress after 214 years, just named Carla Hayden, the first woman and African American to hold the position of lead Librarian.

We are used to seeing African American in sports and entertainment, but often overlook the positions of power many hold. Worse, we get into idiotic arguments of how Black someone is. Then some even turn on other African Americans because they are successful in the “White” arena.

Is it any wonder that African American youth don’t know who our true heroes/leaders are? All they are taught is to be of use or valued by White society they have to be the best entertainer. They are not taught to aim higher.

Tina Turner said in a song that "We Don't Need Another Hero," but I think we need to recognize our true heroes. The ones who have helped African Americans and America.

What can we do to change this for the next generation? How do we get beyond just looking at temporary celebrities as our heroes while ignoring our real heroes?
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Mike Ergo said...

This is such an important question. What I remember growing up is my grandfather telling me stories of people he considered heroes- specifically Marines in World War 2. Hearing him talk about them with a passion and exuberance changed it from history in a textbook to real people that I came to admire.

Maybe the solution is taking the time with the younger generation one kid at a time and telling the stories of great people. Family members are undoubtedly easier to talk to, but what about everyone else? Maybe speaking in schools and classrooms. I know a couple people who do this on a regular basis as part of a speakers bureau.

Wonderful post! I'm glad you are so passionate about bettering the younger generation. It comes through in your writing.