By Hakim Abdul-Ali
I was out of town recently and I came across a truly wonderful sight. It was a scene where I witnessed an elderly Afro-American male and female couple lovingly walking hand in hand and clearly enjoying each other’s company.
It made me stopped immediately in my tracks and in my reminiscent way of looking at things, I felt a sense of delight in seeing Black love in action. Call it what you want, but that’s what my inherent senses of endearing recall were telling me as I was witnessing this scene, and it was beautiful to see.
Oh, by the way, and after excusing myself and having told them that they were a beautiful couple, I asked, ever-so-politely, if they were married. To that question the distinguished grey haired brother said, “Yes, brother. And we’ve been together for forty years, and we are working on our next forty as of today.”
That spontaneous answer floored me, so much so until I literally forgot to get their names as they headed off to points unknown, happy to be sharing the rest of day with each other. If Black is truly beautiful, and it is, then seeing these two mature representatives of our culture shed new light upon my humbling, reflective mindset.
As I thought of the impact of that dynamic scene of observing those two elders, who were obliviously in love, I also thought of my parents and all of their married friends and cohorts with a serious reflective humble view of them being Black, married and very much proud because they knew a little something about being together. In my view, Black folk back then had an intrinsic sense of the importance of family life that was apparently more than general lip service, something that unfortunately isn’t seen and displayed too often today. It’s the truth.
The Afro-American communities of yesteryears gone by seemed to emit a greater sense of inclusiveness toward each other than what is casually observed and missing today. I know that statement is purely subjective, but please don’t forget that I’m not a kid writing this.
I speak from deep experiences in being Black, being proud of the same and having been a part of a honored and esteemed unit at one time called the Black family. That’s why seeing those two Afrikan-American folks was invigorating for me and what the husband said to me brought joy to my eyes and tears to my heart.
Somehow, writing from this privileged position as a columnist leads me want to share and remind this newspaper’s loyal readers that we must, sometimes, “in order to move forward, we must solemnly look back in matters of progress and uplift.” In the Afrikan way of expressing this term for moving ahead while looking back, it is called and commonly referred in the Motherland as “Sankofa.”
Today, I hear a few aware-minded and probably some very sincere intended young Blacks talk of respecting their elders. That’s good to hear, but to them I always say that you have to sit and spend time with the elders, when available, to learn about their pasts and “our-storical” happenings.That’s something that I feel compelled to remind the young folk of today that they have to do in most instances. Respectfully, the reason why this is emphasized by me is that there’s a need for them to slow down somewhat in order for them to fully comprehend what some of the struggles of those who are a part of their familial ancestries were and are about.
“Coming Together as One” in these curiously complex, fake and flippant social media driven arenas can be an escape into a bygone era for some abstract-minded entities. I say that because ebony life in America and beyond is fast becoming a fading irrelevant topic for making Black and other ethnic minority groupings’ concerns issues of importance.
My own mother was a beloved professional schoolteacher, who was a very committed spiritual lady, and she was a lover of being Black and proud. This was a no-brainer in my everyday world, and another life keynote that she told me, in no uncertain terms, was that “a family that prays together will more than likely be together always.”
Those last mentioned sentiments oozed throughout our household with clarity and brevity. As a Black man, now considered to a senior citizen and an elder, I am forever humbled to know that what my mother said and practiced was the core root slogan of the Black Experience’s elusive struggle for unity, meaning we must “Come Together as One.”
Sadly, in many ways, I tragically know that that’s not the norm in many sectors of today’s real Black American experiences and lives as single families dominate, broken homes exist and more and more Black men are incarcerated at escalating rates of detention and disappearances from themselves. It hurts to say this because I know that to many in the fictional Black worlds of existences, it seems that to achieve respect and attain dignity, it’s an uphill climb to the bigoted bottom.
“Coming Together as One” today can seem like consigned to oblivion words written on the polluted water of time as they (may) appear to fade away with each new polarizing racist dilemma facing currently the sorted, frustrated ebony souls in the land of the still very separate and unequal. I’m just speaking truth while attempting to keep it real.
Before I close my column today, I feel obliged to remind you of something that the elder sister in this aforementioned beautiful marriage said to me as she and her husband were departing. She said that their relationship hadn’t always been milk and honey because there had been many bumps along their marital paths, but they survived all of those trials because they “hung” in there with each other when times were hard.This elegant soul sister told me that neither one of them was perfect and, with that being said, they were committed to make their marriage work, by any means necessary. “When we did that, we became ‘together as one’ again,” is what she dropped on me with flawless assuredness.
Come to think of it, my mother and father and their friends must have had that same dynamic understanding because I know that times were a little rough for them way back then. And it’s still not easy being of color in this land of “poly-tricks” gone mad, if you catch by drift because apartheid still exists in clandestine America.
With all that’s been said so far, I’ll leave you with the words of Mary McLeod Bethune, who said, “If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly, everything…that smacks of discrimination or slander.” This dynamic past queen and elder let one and all know that being, or coming, together as a prideful, dignified unit requires sacrifice and struggle.
So, to all the aware young and old ebony folk, please know that coming together with your spouse or loved ones in your homes and communities is a process that requires maturity, resignation, understanding and commitment in addressing the larger issues at hand, and that includes keeping your marriage prosperous and your ethnic sense of being intact.
For today and always, remember that keeping the Black family unit together is important in restoring the concept of “Being Together as One”. Let’s work to establish Black love for ourselves, our spouses, our offerings, our families and others in order to make our communities better, and, that’s “As I See It”.