Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Wisdom of Our Elders: Continuing the Legacy

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Wisdom of Our Elders: Continuing the Legacy

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON--Caring for the young;

breaking the barriers that divide African

Americans along class, age and gender

lines; and taking responsibility for the future

were the themes of February's Black Issues in

Higher Education videoconference, which was:

designed as a celebration of African American

history.

The tone of The Wisdom of the Elders

was set by twenty-five-year-old Rev. Jamal

Bryant, national youth and college director

for the National

Association for the

Advancement of Colored

People (NAACP). Bryant

opened the program with an

anecdote about a young

man at a highway toll

booth. When the young

man reached into his

empty pockets searching in

vain for away to pay, the

booth operator told him to go

ahead through, for the toll had already been

paid by those who had passed ahead of him.

"The only way we're able to sing `We

Shall Overcome' is because somebody else

helped us come over," Bryant said. "We must

always remember that, as we are going on to

this next millennium, we didn't get here on our

own. Somebody prayed for us, somebody

sacrificed for us.... We must always remember

to say thanks."

Panelist John W. Franklin, son of

renowned historian John Hope Franklin,

reminded the audience that in order for young

African Americans to feel gratitude toward

previous generations, they must first know

their history. He suggested that children

should begin by listening to the personal

histories of their adult relatives, neighbors and

friends. That is the way he first developed an

appreciation for African American history.

Jonah Edelman, son of Marian Wright

Edelman and executive director of National

Stand for Children, recalled how a road trip he

once took with his mother through the South

heightened his appreciation for the legacy he

has inherited and helped fortify his own sense

of purpose.

Edelman and Bryant agreed that one of

the biggest challenges for their generation is

building community. In response to a

question about whether the panelists were

part of the Black bourgeoisie, Bryant said

such labels only serve to pit African

Americans against one another.

Panelists Dr. Patricia Reid-Merritt, author

of "SisterPower" and professor of social work

and African American studies at New Jersey's

Richard Stockton State College, and Dr.

Dorothy Height, president of the National

Council of Negro Women, shared

their thoughts on the role women have

played--and must continue to play--in the

ongoing advancement of African American

people. …

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