Is My Living in Vain?

When I was young, I was very close to my grandmother, who I affectionately called Big Mama. This smooth, dark skinned woman was the most beautiful and wisest woman in the entire world in my humble opinion. She possessed a strength that was unmatched by anyone I know. She had so many anecdotes and sayings, there had to be a million of them. Sometimes when she’d say something and I’d get this quizzical look on my face, she’d simply say “Keep on livin’ baby, keep on livin”. And I knew she was telling me that though I didn’t understand her right then, one day I would. Today, I often find myself quoting her words of wisdom.

Not too long ago, I was bellyaching about how in spite of all our strides, black people still have to fight for everything. It’s so hard when you are fighting a battle of race, but then on top of that never-ending battle, you have to fight with your own people in an effort to enjoy your rightful place in the community at large. And as continued to bitch and moan about the black church, gay-bashing, apathy, etc., I could distinctly hear my grandmother’s voice interrupt me saying, “It will be worth it by and by.”

I stopped cold in the midst of my pity party, and thought about the power of that statement. Big Mama was of a generation who knew what it meant to struggle. They overcame poverty, lack of education, police dogs, water hoses, billy-clubs, segregation and Jim Crow. They pressed their way and made history by their willingness to fight and sacrifice for equality. They knew that their struggle and their victory would benefit the generations coming behind them.

Today, we are in a place where history is repeating itself. Black people, again have the opportunity to change the course of our society, much like our ancestors did. In spite of the strides we’ve made and obstacles we’ve overcome, blacks seem to be still lagging behind, and if the masses of us would just stand up, we can do more than what our ancestors did during the civil rights movement. We have the benefit of being more educated, having more resources financially and socially. We have so much more that
they did and that makes us a very powerful force. We have access to more information than our ancestors did. We have opportunities that they couldn’t fathom. So why are we not further along than where we are? Why does it seem like we are missing a valuable opportunity?

I venture to say we lack the vision that our ancestors had. We don’t have the fire and faith that they used to guide them. We lack the true sense of community they had. We don’t have the resolve and the strength they had (or at least we don’t know it). It almost seems as though we are so cute, so intelligent, and so spoiled, we don’t think we have to struggle for anything. Like one day the social equality we want will be handed down to us on a silver platter.

So many of us see the need for change, and realize our power to make it happen; but we won’t do what is necessary to fight for it. We are afraid. We’re afraid of challenging the status quo because we know it will cost us something. Our fear of sacrificing anything we have for the benefit of anyone but ourselves has paralyzed us. It’s like we’ll refuse to help anyone or stand up for a cause if it doesn’t benefit us directly and instantly. We all know that even though we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go.

One thing our ancestors realized is their sacrifice was not for naught. They understood that if their children or grandchildren were able to live better lives, have more opportunities, have access to what they were denied, then their struggle and sacrifice was worth it. They knew that lifting their voices and standing up for what was right would not only help them, but it was the best thing for everyone around them…even the people who were oppressing them. Their indomitable spirit still lives on. They knew that even if they didn’t see the fruits or results of their struggle, the generations following would.

To struggle isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it is most definitely necessary if we’re going to make progress. Struggling and making temporary sacrifices doesn’t make us weak, but it strengthens us. We need not be afraid of struggle or sacrifice. If we must struggle, it’s not just for OUR progress; it is for the benefit of the generations to follow. If we must struggle and make sacrifices, it is merely paying homage to our ancestors who paved the way for us. We’ll be taking our legacy of greatness to the next level. Our names, like theirs will be forever etched in history. If our struggle and sacrifice makes it possible for our younger brothers and sisters to live unashamedly in the full truth of their lives,
being black, male, female, straight, gay, or lesbian, it was well worth it; our struggle wasn’t in vain.


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