When President Barack Obama made his acceptance speech after winning his second term to be President of the United States of America, I heard the first signs of militance that I have ever heard from him. When he used the refrain of "what makes us so strong as a nation", he was repeating words from Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Reverend Wright, a brilliant, inspiring leader of Black America was supposedly thrown under the bus by then presidential candidate Obama. What I appreciate about President Obama is his brilliance. He is a pragmatist. I don't think he threw Wright under the bus at all and, in fact, Otis Moss who took over from Wright at the United Church of Christ in Chicago serves on one of the Presidents' advisory boards.
One of Wright's most memorable messages, and a book by the same name, asks the question, "What Makes You So Strong? " In the chapter that adapts the same title he asks, "What makes you so strong, Black man?" He writes, "How is it that 370 years of slavery, segregation, racism, Jim Crow laws, and second-class citizenship cannot wile out the memory of Imhotep, Aesop, Akhenaton and Thutmose II . . . How is it that after all this country has done to you, you can still produce a Paul Robeson, a Thurgood Marshall, a Malcolm X (el Hajj Malik el–Shabazz) a Martin Luther King, and a Ron McNair?"
He goes on to ask the question, "What makes you so strong Black man? They tried castration and lynching, miseducation and brainwashing. They have taught you to hate yourself and to look at yourself through the awfully tainted eyeglasses of white Eurocentric lies and yet you keep breaking out of prisons they put you in. You break out in a W.E.B. Dubois and a Booker T. Washington; you break out in a judge Thurgood Marshall and a Pops Staples; you break out in a Luther Vandross, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Harold Washington or a Doug Wilder. What makes you so strong Black man?"
The refrain of this message by Wright, "What makes you so strong", should be one to reflect on during this Thanksgiving season. I can reflect on my mother's teachings, my father's examples and inspirations, and my grandparents, aunts' and uncles' examples. They all survived being Black in America and yet surviving and thriving, in spite of the bitterness they endured because of the color of our skin.
Thanksgiving is not so much of a season for thanking God for our things but thanking Him for the people he put in our lives. It is the lessons of those who made from ordinary to extraordinary contributions to our life's journey. If you are following the positive examples of those who have gone on before you, then you have something to be thankful for. Bad times and good times will come and go, but don't quit when the bad times come because they teach us how to enjoy the good times.
If we spend our time thanking God for the things in our lives other than education, employment adequate food and shelter, then the whole experience of thanksgiving is shallow and meaningless. Things can be destroyed and replaced. The lessons of life can be supplanted but they cannot be destroyed or replaced. They are who you are, your family, your character, your commitment and compassion, or lack thereof, for others.
During this season, thank God for who you are and if you don't like that, work on changing. Remember, others are watching. Just as they watched Malcolm, Martin and Thurgood. Think about what makes you so strong, or heaven forbid, ask what makes you so weak. Then ask who you will be next Thanksgiving? There are no excuses for not being thankful for who you are. If you need an inspiration, adopt W. E. B. Dubois, Martin, Malcolm or Harold Washington, or somebody as your positive role model. Then change into someone that can set a good example for another coming behind you.