By Hakim Abdul-Ali
My vibes today are taking me to a place where I need to go in addressing a young brother of color’s concern about giving up on life’s possibilities.
It’s a point that needs to be emphasized, especially in our current fast paced world of occasional temporary and sometimes hopeless thinkers.
I met this young brother recently coming out of an auto parts store, and on our way to our vehicles, we engaged in a general casual conversation type of discussion that most of us engage in from time-to-time. We spoke about sports because I noticed that he had a specific professional football team logo on his t-shirt.
It wasn’t a team that I rooted for and, in good humor, that became a good natured banter between the both of us. He was very much a supporter of his team, and I kidded him about how my team was going to destroy his team during this coming pro football season.
We laughed and parted, preparing to go our separate ways when out of nowhere he asked me if I knew of any place where he could find employment. I stopped, took interest in his inquiry of me, and I asked him what were his qualifications, if he had any.
Forthrightly and very openly, he said that he didn’t have a high school diploma, and he had a police rap sheet for drug dealing and nothing else. He also volunteered that he needed a job because he had two kids by different mothers and he wanted to be a financial help to them in supporting his children.
As I listened to this young brother earnestly speaking to me, I recognized that he was probably like thousands of young Black males in this country trying to get it together in putting their lives (back) together. I could tell and believed that he was genuinely sincere in wanting to find work and do something positive with his life.
Sadly, I told him that I didn’t know of any place in particular that I knew of that was hiring immediately. I related to him that if he put his feet to the ground on the next day and stayed positive, he should and could start the process of finding a job because one wasn’t going to come to him unless he initiated the effort.
Oddly, he didn’t take offense of my rather frank remark to him about going out and start looking for employment. I suggested to him that he should try getting his high school equivalency diploma because having it would aid and advance him in accomplishing a lot of his desired and unexpressed goals in life.
Somehow, in our initial conversation, I asked him what he wanted to do with his life long range. He said he always wanted to be a long distance truck driver, and he also wanted to build and fix automotive engines, which he was very interested in.
This somewhat easy going brother of color told me emphatically that he definitely did not want to go back to selling and dealing in drugs. He said he had enough of jail. “It’s not for me. That’s not how I want to live my life.”
I applauded him, in no uncertain words, about that monumental decision in his life to not wanting to deal drugs, because I felt that he was worthy of doing better things with his life going forward.
Also, I told him that, even though the road maybe a little rough right now, he must stay the course with positive optimism and that everything’s going to work out alright for him and his kids.
At that instance, the young brother started to well up as small tears began to flow from eyes. He apologized and I said it was okay, because I could feel in that isolated moment in time, that this young brother was probably releasing a lot of pent up frustration, hurt, anger, sadness and pain that he’d kept within for a long time.
The young brother went on to tell me that he never had a father figure in his life and he never, ever had anyone take an interest in him like he said he felt that I was doing at that time.
I took that statement from him very seriously as I told him he was worth it as bona fide “hue-man” being to me and that he should always be encouraged within himself to be all that he could be.
My encounter with that young man humbled me so much as a sign from God because you never know who, or what, the Most High Alone places in our path(s) for us to be of possible assistance to another soul who may be hurting, troubled or lost.
The living experience is no joke and you had better believe that because if you think you have it bad in your own worlds of existences, I say to you to just look around you and you’ll probably see someone else in “hue-manity” who’s doing a little worse.
The young brother said he needed to hear what I was telling him, the way that I was putting it to him, because it encouraged him to look on the brighter side of life, even with his present situation, and to stop feeling sorry for himself.
He said he was going to go see about getting his high school diploma next week and he was go to take positive steps in seeing how to become a licensed and certified truck driver.
As he was getting into his vehicle to leave, I mentioned to him that I wrote for a newspaper, and I had an additional special message for him and would he mind if I put that message in one of my articles. He said it was alright with him, but just don’t put his name in it, a request that I respect and uphold.
So, that “special message” to my young brother of color, and to any other ethnic soul who reads this, comes from none other than Jersey Joe Walcott, former great world heavyweight boxing champion. Please read what this ever-so-wise brother of color had to say on the topic of opportunity in 1969.
Mr. Walcott, born in 1914, said, “If we want something out of life, we’ve got to realize that we must give something of ourselves. If we expect to get good jobs, we have to accept the fact that we must first qualify for them. We shouldn’t expect to be given an opportunity, or a job, or a position merely because we’re Negroes.
“The most important thing that I try to stress in my work is that we must qualify ourselves for the opportunities that exist or that will come. If we’re qualified and then are turned down in any respect, we may be disturbed or feel disgusted, but we shouldn’t let the way we feel change our outlook on life.”
This great champion, who died in 1994, continued on by relating, “You know, I said earlier that regardless of what profession a person might chose -or whether he’s White or Black – if he believes in himself, if he knows he has the ability, and if he has faith, no one can stop him. The world cannot stop a determined man!”
That message was for my young brother friend, but it’s for me, you and anyone else who wants something meaningful in life, too. So, “Be qualified and be determined.”
For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”