As I listened to President Obama speak today on the murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old boy from my home town of Miami, Florida, I couldn’t help but think that he is probably the most appropriate person to share the feelings of most of the African-American community. He succinctly stated what pundits and analysts have been discussing at length since the delivery of the not guilty verdict just 6 days ago.
This unfortunate tragedy is just one of many events that have sparked the conversation of race and the image of African-American boys that is held by so many individuals in our nation.
One of the many provocative statements that President Obama made was that we have to do our part to uphold African-American boys. Specifically,”We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys?”
As a mother of a very intelligent and talented African-American boy, this question resonates with me. What can my husband and I do to ensure that my son is seen as a future leader and contributor to this society regardless of his gait and attire.
Speaking of images of African-American boys, in my work with Usher’s New Look Foundation, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with many smart, talented and poised African-American boys and young men who defy all stereotypes that exist. Some of them rap, have tattoos and wear cornrows, but they also travel to to foreign countries, converse with executives of international companies and facilitate leadership trainings for children in America and abroad.
In fact, last Friday, a day before the verdict, I had the opportunity to facilitate an internship development seminar for college students in UNLF college internship program. I presented the seminar at General Electric for 5 male African-American college students. Five males who are intelligent, visionaries, ambitious and are tremendous leaders on their respective campuses. These young men spoke with wisdom and introspect about their internships at one of the largest companies in the world. I juxtapose the image of these young men with the images that are in the minds of people like those whose fear of young black boys lead to murder.
This image leads me back to President Obama’s question. What can I do to help reinforce our African-American boys? I can think of a few ways like mentoring, offering internships, creating opportunities to expand their experiences and investing time, talent and treasure in causes that aim to provide opportunities for success.
I challenge you to commit to some action that will play a role in changing the perception of African-American boys across America.
R.I.P. Trayvon Martin