By Yvonne Sam
Social and Political Commentator
It is of extreme importance that our young people know who they are — and the elders need to tell them.
Our personal failures and societal battles must be shared with them, and they should be cautioned that while history may sometimes be an arc, it is more often a circle. In other words, there is a tendency for the reemergence of the same history that we have lived.
However, if we neglect to tell our children the truth about it, they can never be prepared for what lies ahead. In refusing to share with them the pain of our experiences, especially with race, older Blacks would have failed the younger generation. This is a truth that I have long struggled with, and one which I can no longer ignore.
If, as we oftentimes state, the younger generation is the future, then they need the truth. Our love for them must be expressed through more than material things, such as expensive Nike shoes. I-Pads etc.
We do not protect our children from racism by hiding our own experiences. In truth and fact, the contrary occurs — we leave them vulnerable by doing so.
If we expect the younger generation to do better than we did, then we must tell them what we did. We have to disclose what we experienced. We have to show them how we overcame. Then and only then will Black children truly know what lies before them. They have to first be sure of whom they are.
Even if abolitionists and slave traders tried to erase Africa’s glory from our memories, Blacks still have history on Canada’s shores. It is a history that is, in turn, beautiful and hideous. It is also brutal and difficult to look upon. Yet, if we love our children it is a history that we must share.
Why would we neglect to tell the story of a people, who arrived on these shores in shackles, and now contribute handsomely to the economy?
Why wouldn’t we tell the story of a people, who were forced to live in the poorest conditions and thrived despite that reality?
Why wouldn’t we tell the story of a people, who advanced from slavery to the Supreme Court?
Is it that we are ashamed of the things that took place on the way to our victory, and that shame has left us emotionally bound?
Sadly, when shame prevents a father from relating his story to his son, or stops a grandmother from sharing her anguish with her granddaughter, the lessons of history are lost. And our children are left unprepared.
If we knew that our fight for freedom was bloody before it was peaceful, perhaps our young people would know that the path to liberty is not straight.
If our grandparents had shared the desperation with which Blacks sought the vote as a weapon against the then-existing racism in society, no Black millennial could ever feel justified in saying their vote does not matter.
If even one Black millennial believes voting is irrelevant, they do not know our history. If any young black person believes racism cannot be defeated, they do not know our history.
If a single one of our youth says Blacks have no power, they do not know our history, they do not understand our present, and they have no clear view of our future.
Our young people need to know who they are, and our Black elders need to tell them.
Aleuta—the struggle continues.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.