I AM…..a BIG Black Scholar

When I was a little girl my parents told me that I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I worked hard. The harsh realities of being Black and female were explained to me early on, but my realization of them didn’t come to pass until I was much older. An education for me came in various cycles and at various levels.

 

The single most important factor that began my quest and thirst for knowledge was learning to read. Literacy! Historically, it has been at the forefront of power and privilege among various groups of people for many many years. And just as it was a factor for the true emancipation of my ancestors, it is also truly the essence of my freedom. When I learned to read I became a scholar. Reading was followed by writing, and then my possibilities became truly limitless.

 

I can recall one particular day very clearly in my mind. I was in college (undergrad) and working at a local YMCA part-time. I worked in an afterschool program with elementary kids. One mother came in upset about her son not having his homework complete and correct everyday before leaving the YMCA. I explained to her that we were not a tutoring service and that we allotted 30-45 minutes per day of “homework time” and then on with the rest of the day. She proceeded to yell at me and ask me what I was being paid to do if not what she as a parent requested…I took a second to think, smiled at her and explained that as a part-time afterschool program attendant, I was neither responsible for nor qualified to be sure that her son’s homework was complete and correct. She looked me up and down and what she said next I will never forget. “Of course you’re not qualified and it’s just as well this is probably all you will ever do and all you will ever be anyway. My son will not be coming back” That was when I knew that it was crucial for me to complete my education. “This” would not be as far as I would go, and a job at the YMCA as a part-time afterschool childcare attendant was not the end of the line for me. It was merely the beginning of a journey into my educational future. I had always been a good student, and by good I mean I made good grades. Some subjects were a bore, and there were others that I was interested in (particularly English Literature and History), but until that moment when that 34-year-old, White, PhD College Professor, wife and mother of two made those remarks to me, I had not realized all that I could be. In some strange way, instead of discouraging me, she encouraged me. She motivated me to do better, to want more for myself. It wasn’t enough just to be a “good” student anymore. I knew that I needed to be more than that, and that I was the only person responsible for making it happen. She actually planted the seed of scholarship in my head, and from that seed the scholar that I am today and will always be emerged.

 

So what makes me a Big Black Scholar? Well…I am a Big Black Scholar because I know my value and worth, and I know all that I can achieve. There is no one in this world who knows, understands or believes in what I can achieve more than me. I am a Big Black Scholar because I realize how long and how hard others had to sacrifice for me to even have the opportunity to learn how to read, write, and go to college. Black people and women before me put blood, sweat, tears and even their lives into the struggle so that I would have the chance, the opportunity to go to school. This is something that I will never forget, and I will always take seriously. I am a Big Black Scholar because like those teachers, professors and administrators who encouraged me to know better and my parents who motivated me to do better, I must carry on the same values and knowledge and pass it down to others so that they can see the light. A character in a movie I watched recently stated that “it isn’t enough to simply educate us anymore, we have to be told the reason why.” That is what my purpose is. To educate my people, but to also help them understand the reason why it is so important. I am a Big Black Scholar because I am confident in my ability to succeed. I am unshakable. I am in awe and deep respect of those who paved the way before me, and I want to carry on the legacy… I am, and I will.

– D Ford

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