Letter from the Editor

Congratulations and welcome to 2022! “Congratulations?” you may ask. Well, yes. There are many who would like to see this day but are no longer with us. You are blessed.

The longer I live, the more I find myself in awe of my parents and their perseverance. I grew up in the South. If you’re at all familiar with American history, you’re familiar with how unforgiving the region can be for Black people. Even today, the residual effects of racism are so steeped in the South that to experience momentary racial equity can be likened to encountering a unicorn. Okay, “encountering a unicorn” may be a bit extreme. Perhaps it’d be more accurate to compare those instances to finding a leprechaun’s pot of gold. Anyway, you get my point.

My parents were the first in their respective families to attend and graduate college. They both attended Florida A&M University, the historically Black college in Tallahassee, Florida, during the 1950s. Keep in mind, this was during the height of the Jim Crow era, when segregation, lynchings, and a host of other terrors were de rigueur.

I’ve written before about the ways my father blazed trails as the first Black area manager in the southeast for Anheuser-Busch and how his job paid a handsome salary, but it came at a high price. My mother, siblings, and I only saw our father on the weekends as each week he motored across to a different city to service the company’s clients’ needs.

This left my mom at home alone to raise three kids during the week, in addition to working full-time as an elementary school teacher. But on the weekends, they were a team working for a common goal: raising a family and preparing their kids for a life better than the one they had. (You can read more about my mother here.)

It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties, long after my father died, that I began to understand the racial inequities my parents had to deal with. Not just the daily racism Black people had to deal with, but the internal effects of racism that are subject to today. I’m referring to the soul-crushing weariness that comes from living in an environment rigged to ensure your failure. Think playing a quick game of one-on-one basketball but having one arm tied behind your back.

White readers, please quell any cries of “I can’t relate to that.” You can relate to this situation if you take the time to sit through the discomfort of the reality that the Black experience is a human experience. Imagine a world where you are denied equal treatment but are instead regarded with fear and loathing because of your skin color. And to think of yourself as equally deserving of the opportunity to try. Attempting to understand is the starting point.

Let me be clear, my parents didn’t hide the reality of the world they lived in. No, they chose instead to not let it dominate their lives. They and their contemporaries chose to live in community, to love, laugh, cry, enjoy their culture, foster relationships, celebrate milestones, instill pride in their children and their friends’ children, despite the abject racism they were subjected to daily.

Yes, it is beyond exhausting to deal with bad actors who knowingly hold up a system of white supremacy, as well as those who are too busy living their best life at the expense of others to give a damn. But will I take that as a license to lay down in surrender? No. Generations of my people have fought, prayed, persevered, and died so that I might have the opportunities available to me today. We have to press on as our ancestors have to pave the way for those who will come after us.

The longer I live, the better I understand that willful ignorance steals, hatred kills, and fear destroys. These evils are not new, but they can be overcome with knowledge, love, and confidence. The longer I live, I see more clearly the wisdom in choosing hope over dread.

To hope is to anticipate. If you expect a specific outcome, you prepare for it. You do the things to facilitate its arrival. Hoping is not wishing. To wish is to want without preparation. I wish I was going back to Paris, but without saving money, making plans, or researching fares, my wishing is simply idle chatter and brings me no closer to my goal.

Life is hard, children. Between an unrelenting pandemic and subsequent deaths, an uptick in both natural and manmade disasters, increased violence, and political machinations, it’s enough to bring any sane person to their knees. But life without love and hope is death. My desire for you for the new year — regardless of your skin color, gender, religion or lack thereof, sexual orientation, physicality, political party affiliation, or any other difference — is that you choose to live in preparation for and in anticipation of a better tomorrow for the whole of humanity.

Choose hope. Wear your mask. Love one another.

Clay Rivers
OHF Weekly Editor-in-Chief

Final Thoughts

Top photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash, remixed by OHF Weekly.

Share this post