As a kid growing up in rural Arkansas in the seventies, there was little, if not any, teachings of black history. Besides Abraham Lincoln freeing slaves, I learned very little about the Civil Rights movement. Our small town was about ninety percent black. We never heard anything about “the man” keeping us down. I may have been ill-prepared for the realities of race issues.
Early Realizations and Reevaluations
I learned to work hard, respect others, and always do my best. However, a negative experience on my first job out of college made me reevaluate life as a black man. It was hard to believe others judged me by the color of my skin.
I read and studied more about America’s violent relationship with Black Americans. The most important book I read was “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley. Malcolm X proved we could turn life’s worst experiences into success, by practicing self-love, respect, and service to humanity.
Awakening and Transformation
I woke from believing I could easily achieve the American Dream through sweat and hard work. Racism was alive and required much more. I changed bad habits to a new attitude called “loving myself unconditionally.” Motivational cassettes, inspirational music, jazz, and reggae replaced the music with sex and violence. My diet changed to vegetarian, and out went greasy “soul foods.”
As time passed, I stopped worrying about others' perceptions. My life was reborn daily. I ventured into new experiences and cultures. One day, during lunch at my favorite health foods store, I encountered a man with dreadlocks. Our conversations covered Rastafarianism, Emperor Haile Selassie I, vegetarianism, and more, and a friendship blossomed.
Spirituality Over Religion
He represented many ideals I admired, fueling my desire for dreadlocks. But my upbringing in church taught me spirituality over religious adherence. Following moral and natural laws, treating everyone with kindness, and harnessing one's talents are paramount.
Despite my growing desire for dreadlocks and their symbolic significance, the courage to embrace the change was lacking. A trip to New York City became a turning point in my journey of self-reinvention.
Navigating Life's Realities
Racism and prejudices persist, but life is fleeting. Our responsibility isn't to change every misguided view but to be conscious of its implications. It's crucial to maintain a positive attitude, reciprocate genuine respect and love, and continually evolve.
In a world filled with aspirations for harmony, maintaining a realistic outlook is vital. Life is a series of lessons, and every interaction is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Boost your impact! Share this post with family, friends, and co-workers using the social media icon below. They'll value your recommendation!