By Hakim Abdul-Ali
I come in contact with many diverse sectors of the so-called American People everyday and, as such, I’m always amazed at how many of them look at their respective lives. Recently, I had the good fortune to experience that firsthand and upfront.
On this past Sunday, I was confronted by a young brother who had just gotten home from being incarcerated for about two years. He recognized me from reading The Charleston Chronicle in “the joint” as prison life is unceremoniously referred to.
After listening to this really expressive brother of color for about fifteen minutes or so, I heard him speak of all the things that he wanted to do now that he was back in the real world. He told me of his plans to do this and to do that, but somehow, as I listened to him rap on, I got the feeling he was just posturing me with “things” he desired without a pragmatic plan in hand to accomplish those vaunted desires of his.
I believed this young brother, who I think may have been around twenty-five- years of age, may have been spouting a sincere desire to be and achieve somethings in life, but, again, I sensed that he didn’t have a real plan of action to get his goals rolling so to speak. He seemed lost and appeared befuddled when I asked him about his pursuant efforts in achieving his aspirations.
That appeared very clear when I asked him where had he applied to start his journey in fulfilling those vaunted dreams and aspirations of his. Again, he appeared to have no clue about the process of starting his journey to either employment or personal goal settings.
This young man became somewhat tense when I mentioned to him to not let (any) opportunities which come his way fall by the wayside. To his credit, he said emphatically, “Sir, I don’t know what you mean.”
At this juncture, I related to him a few things about seizing every precious moment in time and space in order to accomplish his goals in life, whatever they be. In a sense, I was giving him an on-the-spot immediate call to order about stopping procrastination and getting busy in doing what he needed to do to take advantage of what opportunities where out there for him.
I was direct in speaking to the young man, and he showed me much respect as I carefully explained to him the value of taking advantage of every and all opportunities that are placed before him. My tone was passionate in delivery because, quite honestly speaking, that’s my verbal style in telling it like it is.
And from my recollection of thoughts about opportunities, I shared with him some quotes that came to my mind, and now I’d also like to share them and some more quotes with you from the wisdom of a few noble Afro-American ancestors. Oh by the way, you don’t have to be Black to savor the full vitality of these quotable gems because “truth is truth,” no matter who delivers the message.
I told the young brother of color that the late writer and activist James Baldwin, who died in 1987, once said, “When I was young, the world was White, everywhere, forever. But it is certainly not White in the same way for any young Black person today.” Please think about that in terms of where equal opportunities and racial discriminations exists today compared to Mr. Baldwin’s time. Hmm. Are you still thinking?
Continuing, my mother used to always remind me of quotable thoughts she loved from the great entrepreneur Mme. C. J. Walker, who died in 1919. Mom would tell me that Mme. Walker said, “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. (So,) don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come (to you); you have to get up and make them (for yourself).” Makes sense to me.
Of course, I shared that realistic aforementioned quotable gem with the young man as he began to finally realize that he needed to “get busy” and stop merely rapping about what he wanted out of life. Each action moment in life is timely and vital in seizing every opportunity that comes one’s way.
Along that trend of thought, I like to extend some more Afro-gems of wisdom about opportunity to one and all. The genius scientist Dr. George Washington Carver related, “In these strenuous times, we are likely to become morbid and look constantly upon the dark side of life, and spend entirely too much time considering and brooding over what we can’t do, rather than what we can do. And, instead of growing morose and despondent over opportunities that are shut from us, let us rejoice at the many unexplored fields in which there is unlimited fame and fortune to the successful explorer.”
Now, that’s some real heady and captivating stuff from Dr. Carver, who died in 1943. Another piece of simplistic, unpolluted truth about seizing opportunity came from nationalist leader and thinker Marcus Garvey’s mind, who said, “Take advantage of every opportunity; where there is none, make it for yourself.”
Mr. Garvey, who died in 1940, was always about teaching, encouraging and advocating that all people of color should learn to do do self, especially when it came to capitalizing on each God Alone moment that is given to them by the Most High Alone. I believe some of us know this and, sadly, some others don’t have a clue as to want Mr. Garvey said and meant.
Finally, in closing my thoughts for today, I’m going to share some more rather brief Afro quotable insights from the minds of two more significant elders of the African-American experience for you to ponder over. The great Olympian and track star Jesse Owens, who died in 1980, declared, “One chance is all that you need.”
Listen up! Remember that death is only a short breath away for all of us, including you, and tomorrow is not promised to any of us in “hue-manity.” I believe that wholeheartedly. Do you?
I trust that you do, and finally, celebrated jazz composer and band leader Edward “Duke” Ellington, related, “Every intersection in the road of life is an opportunity to make a decision.” Mr. Ellington passed away in 1974, but his vibes about seizing every opportunity that comes our way is successful wisdom to the wise. Do you get it? Again, I hope so. For today and always, that’s, “As I See it.”