Children like me are not supposed to graduate from high school early. They are not supposed to go to a great college or university. They are not supposed to finish and get their dream job. They are not supposed to get dissatisfied with their career and go back to a great college or university for a second degree. They are supposed to have a baby out-of-wedlock but they are not supposed to marry their child’s father. Children like me are not supposed to own a home, complete a second degree and have opportunities to choose from.
If I listened to society’s message about being black, motherless, fatherless, poor or a mother before I planned, I would have never succeeded. If I listened to society’s message about the value of an education at HBCUs, I would have never fought to stay at Howard every semester and would not have went back to Howard, declining scholarship opportunities at other law schools. If I listened to society’s message about balancing a family and your dreams, I would not be investing all of my free time into making my dreams turn into a reality.
Society has a way of shaming, demeaning and humiliating women, mothers, poor people, minorities, working parents, those who are not sexual conformists or sexual purists, and anyone who attempts to advocate or speak up for these groups. The messages that are highlighted in mainstream media, backed by “policies” and shown through biased images oppress, silence and discredit these groups. The instant and ease of access to social media, video recording and outlets that connect millions of people together have only begun to shed light on the truth of who we really are and who we can become.
YouTube videos, blogs, Instagram and Twitter hashtags have connected people from different walks of life who have endured similar experiences. These mediums have allowed us to see that many of us are more alike than we are different, that we are powerful and we are beautifully complex and interesting. We have been exposed to amazing people with unique backgrounds, survivors of horrendous crimes and minorities who are making a difference in their communities locally, nationally and internationally. We are beginning to accept that poor people are not the enemy and breastfeeding in public should be supported and not shamed. We are applauding working parents, stay-at-home moms and dads and those who chose to do what makes sense for their own families at that time. We are beginning to accept that civil rights should be equally applied to everyone despite who they love. We are respecting the talent and value of a person despite their sexual identity.
The exposure to the possibilities of life and the truth of our existence has transpired because we have stopped listening to society. We have taken control of our stories, the images we consume and strengthened our power by rejecting the limited scenarios that we have been offered to choose from. Our power is to be feared. An open and aware mind cannot be controlled.
They said I would never make it. They said I should not go to college. They said I would not finish college. They assumed I would never find a job. They thought I would become like my mother. They wished that I would give up. They hoped I would stop believing. Their words, thoughts and wishes did not work against me because I did not listen to them. I have succeeded because I did not allow them to define my success.
Stop listening. Succeed. Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.