By Barney Blakeney
I heard from my friends Verlyn and Tyrone Tarlton the other day. I met the Tarltons last year as they traveled with their three children through South Carolina on a nationwide journey to visit all states of the Continental U.S. The Virginians embarked on their quest as part of the children’s education.
Tyrone and Verlyn both are educators who strongly believe their three children, eight-year-old Melody and seven-year -old twins Daniel and Isaiah, should get a good education, so Verlyn home-schools them. In June, the Tarltons took their children’s education on the road. Over the next five years, they plan to visit each state of the union with a focus on African American heritage.
I met them back in September after a visit to Daniel Jenkins Institute led them to The Chronicle. Verlyn ain’t no joke – she’s a smart, head-strong black woman, blessed to have a smart supportive husband. She realized while home-schooling her children, how little Black History information was available and how few books are available that depict images of children who look like hers.
Black History is more than the familiar stories about Frederick Douglas, Martin L. King Jr., and Rosa Parks, she says. She wanted her children to know the boundless depths of African American History and the stories of those who shape it.
Tyrone’s retirement gave the family the opportunity to explore those depths. They already owned a RV they sometimes used for vacations. And since the kids were being home-schooled and were old enough, Verlyn thought their RV could become their home and classroom on a journey that would allow them to see the country, talk to people and learn about Black History along the way.
They’re on their way to Texas now. Verlyn’s writing about and recording the escapade. You can follow the family by logging on to www.GoSwiftWalker.com.
I thought about how important the Tarletons’ undertaking is when I read a recent op-ed piece by local author Kilpatrick Sale in the March 14 edition of the daily newspaper. His column was about the Native American character most of us know as Pocahontas, a young woman who married a British colonist back in the early 1600s. The story of Pocahontas has so many versions, most people don’t know the facts of her life. Sale’s recount of her life and the fate of her people left me sad and sickened.
Europeans seeking land, riches and resources immigrated to North America and through force afforded them by superior technology and weaponry slaughtered, pillaged and seized everything from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
They annihilated the indigenous people they encountered. Pocahontas’ tribe, whose population according to Sale was estimate at about 40,000 when the colonists arrived, 50 years later was reduced to fewer than 600.
I think about that when I hear Americans today talk about immigrants and protecting our borders. I’m hard-pressed to describe the insanity of the descendants of unscrupulous thugs, thieves and tyrants who view this land as an honorable inheritance from those who so violently and inhumanely stole it.
I find it more abhorrent to hear black folks whose forebears were brought to this land in chains for the economic benefit of those thugs and thieves talk about illegal immigrants usurping their rightful place in America.
I read a column I wrote several years ago for another publication which had as its subject the demise of black businesses since integration. I read some of the comments that were made in response to the column. Good thing I’ve got thick skin! Didn’t mind the attacks that were made on the position I took, but the personal attacks!!! It was scathing. But I’m a big boy. Like my old college buddy “Dog” Pointsette used to say, when you think you’re right, stand! When confronted with ignorance, it’s useless trying to get sense out of nonsense. And I remembered Tyrone and Verlyn Tarlton.
Ignorance can breed violence and intolerance. But education and information can counteract ignorance.
The Tarltons aren’t allowing a flawed and inadequate education system to indoctrinate their children. I saw some New York newspaper columnist talk about indoctrination on a Public Broadcasting Stations show the other night – “The Week With Charlie Rose”. I forget the guy’s name, but he was talking about how our society is focused more on materialism than morality. We’re going the wrong way, and we’ve been doing that for centuries.
Sale concluded his op-ed piece saying creating myths about Pocahontas and erecting statues as testament to those myths is poor compensation for what Europeans did to her people. So what compensation is there for black folks who brought forth the riches from the land stolen from Native Americans?
I see a new generation of thugs and thieves emerging in America. With their blue jeans, long hair and beards they look like the progressive thinkers of the transformative, but they act more like the inappropriately entitled usurpers of this country’s early days.
Perhaps the reparations we should expect must be the education of Americans who still want to exploit and pillage.
More of us should take a hint from the Tarltons. In a world where the education of our young is left to entertainers, it might be a good idea to help them learn the truth by meeting others and sharing.
“This has been indescribable, an eye-opener,” Verlyn said in September. “I couldn’t have imagined all that we’ve learned only since June.” Tyrone said the journey is offering him the opportunity to explore education outside the classrooms where he spent the past 29 years. “It’s overwhelmingly exciting. We’re meeting people who often share 50 years of history in a matter of minutes. For my kids it’s like taking the blinders off.”
Like the Tarltons, we need to find ways to take the blinders off.