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A Grad Trip South

Black news from Pasadena - Commentary celebrating 2011 graduatesMy wife and I traveled to North Carolina to see our oldest granddaughter graduate from high school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We also made a trip to Atlanta to visit our youngest son, Jamal, and his family.  Travel fascinates me because I always learn something that inspires me, one way or another. 

Ironically, our granddaughter and son were both born in hospitals in Los Angeles.  They grew up in Altadena and attended schools in Pasadena, however, our granddaughter’s mother moved her to North Carolina as a teenager.  The South has been good for them, but we have always longed for the day they would both return to California. Thankfully, our granddaughter has chosen to attend a California college. As for our son, only time will tell.

Ironically, Jamal (a Ph.D. and Professor of Theology) teaches at one of the historical Black colleges, Interdenominational Theological Center.  ITC is the school of religion for Morehouse, Spelman, and the other colleges that make up the six Black Colleges and Universities of Atlanta University. Our granddaughter, Ifetayo (fondly called “Ife”, pronounced: “E-faye”), graduated from a school I have been told that was the last school district in North Carolina to desegregate in the turbulent civil rights days. Chapel Hill gave me the impression that it was the Beverly Hills part of North Carolina. Chapel Hill High School, which was at one time the only high school in Chapel Hill, has its second Black principal, Dr. Jesse Dingle. That’s progress, thanks to the civil rights workers! 

During the graduation ceremony, Dr. Dingle took the time to tell a short story of a little Black boy who started school, stuttering, and because he had four sisters, only knew his name as, “Brother.”  Though he was left-handed, he was forced to learn to write with his right hand.  He was ridiculed and teased about the stuttering, but it was discovered by a talented, caring second grade teacher that he had a brilliant mind and, further, his teachers discovered that he had a highly developed artistic ability. He was skipped to the third grade and ended up with a number of college degrees and now is a high school principal.  “Brother” could have been placed in special education and his life could have ended up much differently.   

An article in a newspaper in North Carolina caught my eye because it dealt with summer employment for teenagers, in these days of economic austerity. The article listed a few tips for job hunting teens which I will share here:  (1) If you are offered any encouragement by a potential  employer, be persistent and call back frequently, but in a nice way; (2)Dress nicely.  Use correct grammar and good manners; (3) Be creative, look beyond baby sitting. Look at pet sitting or try to create a job out of a hobby; (3) Tell everybody in your family that you are looking for work. Use Facebook and other social network to put out the word. You may get a referral; (4) Take internships and make connections for jobs you may want in the future; (5) Start looking early. Don’t wait until the last minute; (6) Don’t ignore traditional work like restaurants, construction, gardening and landscaping, or even janitorial work. 

I would add to these tips, take ATP (anything that pays)! The point is to get a foot in the door to learn the world of work and make a few dollars.  And it’s okay to start at minimum wage. Some ($) beats none. Next year, you could get a raise or a more permanent position.  Any job will help you learn to manage time, get along with others in the workforce, and gain skills that you won’t learn in the classroom. In addition to these tips for teens, I picked up a book entitled, “52 Things Kids Need from a Dad” by Jay Lenetier.  Noted from the book, to help them beat the odds, is to start a file folder with the child’s name on it, and spy on them, and answer their questions with questions. For that I will leave it to you to use your imagination, or better yet, make a game out of it.

While on our trip, we visited our friend Xernona Clayton in Atlanta only to find out that she was beaming because the city of Atlanta had just named a street and a park after her: “Xernona Clayton Way” and “Xernona Clayton Plaza”.  Part of her history is that in 1965 she accepted a position with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and worked closely with both Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King as their personal assistant until Dr. King died. In 1967, Xernona, the founder of the Trumpet Awards and the Civil Rights Walk of Fame, became the first African American person in America to have her own television talk show, “The Xernona Clayton Show”. For thirty years she served as Corporate Vice President for Urban Affairs for Turner Broadcasting, including CNN, the Atlanta Braves, and the Atlanta Hawks.

In 2008, when I served as President of West Coast Black Publishers Association, Xernona was the keynote speaker at the organization’s Annual Leadership Conference, held in Pasadena. She also spoke at a breakfast of the event at the Tournament House.  On our visit, we took great pride in presenting her with a portrait of herself and her friends who have gone on before her. The portrait, by Pasadena artist, Jan Jackson, includes her with Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Coretta Scott King, C. Delores Tucker and Lena Horne.

The month of June is a very eventful time for me and my wife.  In addition to traveling, we celebrate Father’s Day, birthdays and graduations, as well as our wedding anniversary.  This year it’ our 49th (June 30, 2011)!


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