On Saturday night, as news of the George Zimmerman verdict was broadcast, a local New York reporter walked through Times Square interviewing the crowd for their reactions. He approached two young Black teenage boys for their perspective. My heart broke and sadness gave way to anger when one replied, “They just told me that my life doesn’t matter.”
Saddened, angered—and maybe even a little disillusioned, I went to bed heavy hearted. As I scrolled through my texts, one question posted in a group message grabbed my attention: “What do I teach my boys?”
I’m certain this question echoed in the heart of every mother of a young Black male. While I truly don’t understand the jury’s verdict, I know ignorance is what led to the crime. Though I am outraged and heartbroken, I realize that I must move beyond my emotions. My anger must be directed to positive action. So, to the best of my ability, I must find ways to dialogue with the generation that has the power to change things.
We must fight against unjust laws, but our most prevailing efforts require that we work to develop the character and understanding that prevents these tragedies in the first place. I am not convinced that we will ever live in a world where this doesn’t happen, but I do believe that we can create a world where the hope for justice for everyone is stronger than an eyes-closed, fingers crossed wish.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe that the first step is talking about the tragedy and the verdict with young people—of all races and backgrounds. We must ask the questions that help them develop their own perspectives and solutions and empower them to build the world they want to live in.
For the mothers who have asked that heartbreaking question, “What do I teach my boys?” Teach them that they matter! Tell them the world can be a dark place but light always overcomes darkness. Tell them they have the power to show the world how to treat them and it starts with understanding their own value.
No shortcuts—no simple answers. But, following the lead of our ancestors, we can change the world with hard work and faith. With that hope, I share this poem from my book Thrive! 7 Strategies for Extraordinary Living as an encouragement to all our sons:
YOUNG BLACK MAN
Young Black Man
Stand tall, be strong
I know your road has been weary
And the journey has been long.
For centuries enslaved,
And for decades denied,
Don’t bow to the pressure
Lift your head up—have pride.
You are more than you know,
Young Black Man you are—
Your strength is supernatural
Your beauty, radiant like stars.
They thought they knew you,
They shamed you with lies.
Called you 3/5 of a person
A lesser man would have died.
Though others desire
To script your destiny.
Erase the lines on history’s page—
Be the author of your dreams.
They called you stupid—
Tell them they lied.
They called you a failure
Tell them, “that failure died.”
Hold your head up,
Stick your chest out,
Square your shoulders, Be Strong!
Keep moving, Keep striving, Keep pushing, Hold On!
I love to see power
Burning in your eyes.
Strength in your jawbone
And purpose in your stride.
Be you caramel, chocolate
Café au lait or tan
You are awesome and beautiful,
My brother—the young black man!
Recently named the “North America’s Next Greatest Speaker” by eWomenNetwork, Felicia T. Scott is a Certified Empowerment Coach™ who empowers her clients to turn their Worth into Wealth as she partners with them to DISCOVER their WORTH, DO the WORK and DEFINE their WEALTH. Get more insight, download the FREE “8 Choices Winners Must Make” seminar MP3 on her website.