By Beverly Gadson-Birch
I am not one for airing Black folk dirty laundry in public, but sometimes you just got to put it all out there, bloomers and all. My involvement in the black community is by chance not choice. It was the hospital strike in 1969 that deferred my dreams and set me on a different path other than I had envisioned for myself. I did not choose to get involved in the strike; it chose me. My mother had recently been hired as a Nurse’s Aide at County Hospital. Prior to that, she had never worked outside of the home. When County Hospital decided to join the strike, my mom walked out too. She had three small children still at home to feed. I lived in New Jersey at the time and was well on my way to living the good life. However, not knowing how my mom was going to take care of herself and my younger siblings, I decided to return home to help out. To me, it was the right thing to do at the time. It was all about paving the way forward. Life is about leaving this world a little better than we met it. My mother had no way of knowing how she would pay her bills, but she stepped out on faith because she wanted to create opportunities and a better life for herself and her children.
Then, it was my turn. I had a son. I knew if he was going to be successful growing up in the south, I knew I was going to have to fight for him. As a mother, that was my job. I also knew my family had my back. My church had my back. My community had my back, but much has changed since then. I looked at not only what my mother did, but I looked at the possibilities of what I could do to bring about change. I looked at what people of color did when they united with a purpose for a single cause.
Let’s take a step back in Charleston’s history. It was in the 60’s when black folk still went to the back of the bus. Although we, as a people, had already fought that battle and won, it was still in our DNA to follow the path of least resistance. Wherever we went or whatever we did, we were always made to feel inferior as a people. It didn’t matter whether we could afford to go to a nice restaurant, hotel or high-end clothing store, we were always met with the same maltreatment. It didn’t matter how old you were. It didn’t matter how much education you had. You were still called boy, girl or “Nigger”. We have come a long way; we still have a long way to go.
Let’s fast forward to NOW!! Why are we falling into Willie Lynch’s theory of divisiveness? Y’all know how Lynch wholesaled to white plantation owners and friends how to keep blacks under control. Why are we so disjointed? It’s 2019, 50 years after the hospital strike, and we cannot find a common cause to unite. We continue to allow the powers to be to keep us at each other’s throat. Look around you!! Wake up!! White folk are taking over public schools and running black children out of their neighborhood schools and y’all don’t have a problem with that? They left public schools voluntarily at the advent of integration because they did not want their children to attend schools with your children. Yes, your children! Now, they have decided to come back and call the shots. And you don’t have a problem with that? What about your children? Are you even concerned that 80% of our children are failing and the education they did receive or are receiving will not land them jobs on Wall Street and with Fortune 500 or high tech companies? Many black children are reading on the fourth grade level. What about black crime? Do you think law enforcement can do something about our children killing each other almost on a weekly basis? Sure they can but we are doing their job for them. Where are these guns and drugs coming from? And, you don’t have a problem with that? What about homelessness and gentrification? Oh, so you live in a nice home and that’s not your concern?
And, since I have been around a few corners or two, I have seen some things that limit our expansion and upward mobility as a people. It is time for the us–Black community– to unite and stop allowing folks to divide us and play their divide and conquer game. The single most pressing issue facing blacks is education. Education is the foundation of all that we do or all that our children will become. Without it, we will never achieve financial stability and pass wealth along to the next generation. We have many problems facing our children and our communities and the only way to solve them is to unite. Are y’all listening?