As people come to know me, they will soon find out about my sister. I have to explain that as far as sisters go, no one else has one of these. No one. Seriously. And when they do meet her or have any interaction with her at all, they’ll find out very quickly what I am talking about. My sister is an original. I’m saying all of this to say that in addition to her infectious personality, propensity for making up names for things, having an incredible knack for telling side-splitting stories, and other quirks that are too numerous to name, she has these segments on Facebook that garner plenty of attention from those who follow her. My favorite is the Shout Out segment. Now the original meaning for the phrase, Shout Out is to give people a greeting or praise. However, my sister uses the Shout Out to let’s just say to… acknowledge those lacking in common sense and common courtesy. It’s quite hilarious, actually. Well I hope that my sister doesn’t mind, but I’m going to borrow her Shout Outs for this blog post. Only, I want to use the term Shout Out for its original purpose: to give praise. So, without further ado, here are my Shout Outs:
My first Shout Out goes to Naomi. In spite of it being illegal, she learned to read and write. For slaves, literacy was more than knowing what their white owners knew. For Naomi and the other slaves, having an education meant finally being seen as more than 3/5 of person or a second-class citizen. Having an education would do something that merely being brought to these shores could not do. What fighting in the wars for freedom could not do. What speaking in English and becoming a Christian could not do. For slaves and freedmen alike, having an education meant finally being regarded as an American.
I want to give a Shout Out to teachers like Charlotte Forten Grimke, who dedicated their lives to teaching the newly freed slaves. Thanks to the Port Royal Experiment, descendants of Naomi’s generations were able to become educated. Getting a good education had always been apart of Black American Culture. After gaining freedom, it was important for former slaves to have learning. Our people may not have had the most pristine setting for a house of learning, but they sure knew how to school. These students didn’t just receive “book learning” but life learning. In other words: It was not only important to gain knowledge of the 3 R’s, but they needed to learn how to function in mainstream society. Lessons actually included diction and etiquette. I mean how else would people who were once in bondage ever be taken seriously? This actually reminds me of all of the “extras” I learned while attending Hampton University. I still remember a sternly worded lecture in my Mass Media class on the art of being a good tipper. I digress. Anyway, our people have always been survivors and knew that obtaining a well-rounded education would lead to success.
Of course there were some aspects of educating Black people that were up for debate: Should we learn a trade like Booker T. Washington believed, or should we compete on an intellectual level as argued by W.E.B. DuBois. So Shout Out to both men because they understood that having an education, whether it was learning a trade or becoming a professional, was a way for Black citizens to be competitive.
Shout Out to Thurgood Marshall and those countless students who fought against education discrimination. Facilities for Blacks may have been separate, but they sure weren’t equal. Of course today, we are dealing with “resegregation” and once again separate is not equal… but, moving on.
Shout Out to the student activists of the 1960s who knew that it was not enough just to have a good education. They knew that they needed to work to fix society’s ills – segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement – in order for us all to have a better future. These students risked their own education in this fight for equal rights.
Shout Out to the It’s-a-Black-Thing-activists-Malcolm-X-cap-wearing-positive-rap creating/reciting-A-Different-World-and-School-Daze-watching-HBCU-attending-learn-your-history-urging-Africa-shaped-medallion-sporting-Bob-Marley-jamming-give-back-to-the-community-Fight-the-power-students of the 1990s.
The importance of education was passed down from generation to generation. To that end, I want to give a Shout Out to people like my grandparents, who were always telling us to go and “get our learnin’.” I acknowledge them because economics did not permit them to get a college education, but they made sure their children had one. They knew that getting a degree was the key to their children and grandchildren reaching that coveted middle class status. And it wasn’t just our Grandmamas, Gramees, Big Mamas, Mamas, Granddaddies, Grampees, Big Daddies, and Daddies giving this message to their own children, but was imparted to all of the children of the ‘hood, island, or country. Getting a good education was a part of Black culture and reinforced throughout tightly-knit neighborhoods. Then our neighborhoods broke down and there went the expectation for higher learning. Now, as a people, we are so far removed from the educational mindset Naomi’s generation, it’s a tragedy. And this is one of the reasons I implore people to Gentrify your Own Self!
As a people, we have to get back that culture of education success. Although we are still presenting theories as how to achieve this, I say we give a Shout Out to those who have brought us this far. But first as we look to Naomi and shout her out, please remember what getting a good education is all about for our people and where it started.
Who is Naomi, you ask? Read Marshland and find out :).