By Hakim Abdul-Ali
I’m in one of those writing moods where I’m completely feeling aware and thoughtful with what I’m about to tell you. First, my feeling aware mindset tells me to inform you about one heck of philanthropic kindness from a truly giving soul who helped others and made their lives a lot less burdensome.
This happened in Atlanta, Georgia, and it occurred during the graduation ceremonies at one of this nation’s leading historically African-American colleges and universities, or HBCUs as they are commonly referred to in the African-American worlds of existences.
These grand learning institutions have “our-storically” been serving our communities for what seems like forever, and I’m a product of one them, namely, Howard University. The act of philanthropy was directed to an HBCU school named Morehouse College, a traditional member of the HBCU family, and it’s an all-male institution of higher learning.
For your information, there are presently 100 other HBCUs besides Morehouse in the USA. Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty about this philanthropic matter. An African-American billionaire named Robert F. Smith, in giving a commencement speech to the entire 400 member 2019 graduating class of Morehouse, stunned them all by offering to pay off every graduate’s student loan.
Yes, you heard it correctly. The estimate cost of this generous offer could (and would) cost Mr. Smith an estimated $40,000,000. I had to write those numbers that way because all I could say when I heard what this man had done and offered to do made me say out loud, “Wow! Now, That’s What I’m Talking About.” I’m moved to express that rather somewhat generic expression because Mr. Robert F. Smith, a billionaire tech investor, stepped right on up to the plate and “TCBed.”
Again, man, did he “take care of business,” and, on behalf of those 400 graduating seniors, he gave each and everyone of them a breathtaking sigh of relief, by removing a heavy financial headache from their future paths going forward. National news sources from around the country said Mr. Smith’s announcement was met with stunned looks and, after he announced it, the graduating students broke into tears and cheers at the largest gift “ever” given to a HBCU.
From afar, I have to salute this fabulously wealthy individual, who obviously is rich beyond most normal folk’s imagination, for doing such a previously unheard of thing. Some may even question why he did it, but all he apparently said was that he expected the graduates who receive the benefits of his generosity was “to pay it forward” while alluding to the understanding that “everyone has the the same opportunity going forward.”
Before you move on to my next point, let’s stop right there and try to savor what I believe this brother of color really did. I believe in some not-so-small dimensions, Mr. Smith’s surprise and unbelievable goodwill offering to the 2019 Morehouse graduates should serve as a marvelous wake up call to our overall struggling communities, academic institutions and economic infrastructures, etc., who need to start assisting and helping themselves, by any means necessary.
Renowned activist Ida B. Wells of yesteryear once said, “Let the Negro depend on no party, but on himself for his salvation. In reading this, I politely would like for you, if you’re of color, to recognize that we have to help each other make it to the promise land of prosperity, wherever that is. The late Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad related, “The day has arrived that you will have to help yourself or suffer the worst.” Think about that while putting economics and survival in the same breath of present day realities.
Really awareness could take place on your job, if you have one, in your own household, among your family unit members, in your neighborhood, or wherever. Just think about what I’m saying today.
Moving forward, I believe that Mr. Smith’s generosity should say much more to all enlightened communities about helping others achieve the maximum heights of achieving their goals in life, just like other successful and supporting ethnic communities do.
Giving back in order to move ahead doesn’t always have to be with the issuance of money, but it helps. Helping others could be sharing your knowledge or expertise, your time, your spiritual support, or so much more that could help another deserving “hue-man” over the hump in this land where we know that bigotry, prejudice and discrimination still exists, especially, if you’re of color. That’s being magnanimous.
On another thoughtful vibe, I have to now add that we don’t have to deny or play the so-called dreaded race card when injustices occur, but “the brutal truth” is the light. If you think racism is a thing of the past, well, you’re entitled to your thoughts, and I’ll certainly have to respect that view, even though I believe that overwhelming statistics say it exists and you can’t prove otherwise.
Brilliant lawyer Derrick Bell, Jr., said, “Black people will never gain full equality in this country. Even those Herculean efforts we hail as successful will produce no more than temporary ‘peaks of progress,’ short-lived victories that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways that maintain White dominance. This is a hard to accept fact that all history verifies. We must acknowledge it, not as a sign of submission, but as an act of defiance.”
As I told you before when I started this piece, I’m thinking about a lot things right now. And staying on top of the games of being consciously aware, mentally liberated and economically sane doesn’t mean you have to repeatedly hide behind the debilitating caldrons of blatant falsehoods, colonial miseducation, foreign myths, political associations and economic entrapments, as many of us do, which hinder us from being united and productive as citizens of this potentially great land.
The alt-right, not-so-clandestine caverns and the rise of the political radical right lets me know that all folk of color had better start understanding that helping one another succeed in life is tantamount to their very own ethnic survivals.
Maybe, Mr. Smith’s noble generosity will spur some other well-healed, moneyed folk to give back to others in order for some others to move forward educationally and financially. I know firsthand that racism is what it is in many standard sectors of American culture and life, and it lies behind just about every decision made in this country and beyond.
Even Mr. Smith is purported to have said that a White man once refused to allow him to pay for his dinner because he’s Black. In many norms, it appears that no matter how far you go, or succeed, in the American living process, unfortunately, “things seem to always remain the same.”
I guess you’d call it “Awesome Magnanimity and Complex Realities” because in many instances, this potentially great land still is what it is. Still, Mr. Robert F. Smith, you’re a hero to many. Thanks for being who you are. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”