“You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I’m not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man.” (Malcolm X-Page 3-final sentence- “Learning to Read-excerpt)
“Then there are the sullen, and already defeated Indian kids– they refuse and resist, books I say to them, books I say. I throw my weight against their locked doors, the doors hold. I am smart. I am arrogant. I am lucky. I am trying to save our lives.” (Sherman Alexie- Superman and Me: final paragraph (20,24))
It is statements like these two that clearly define the importance of giving back to communities. Malcolm and Sherman respectively understood that with the knowledge they now beheld, the urgent call to rise up to a position of leadership for the sake of the future generations. With great knowledge comes wisdom, power and responsibility. Malcolm and Sherman both did not start off knowing that their paths would lead them to such an important calling.
Malcolm X has my greatest admiration! I remember in fifth grade my teacher asked us to do book reports, I being a lazy young white girl living in suburbia; chose an easy book. My teacher stared at me with an intense look of disappointment. “This is not you” she shook her head as she passed it back to me. “You’re better than this, a great writer. Choose something more advanced.”
I went home discouraged. I had been given an extra week to complete my report, but what would I choose? My Dad came walking into the kitchen with a great heavy book in hand, slapped it on the table and said “read this.” There on the surface of the book was an unfamiliar face and name, Malcolm x. I grabbed the book and grumbled as I walked into my room.
That night I sat there reading this advanced read for a fifth grader and I was fascinated. Here he was sitting in prison, and rather than give up he taught himself to read and learned language in the most respectful way. Malcolm started with the dictionary from A-Z and not only did he read it he wrote it also!! Can you imagine sitting in a cell and at lights out creeping to the edge of the cell to catch a ray of light in order to read? He did this!
Fast forward to the future, I started College at a historically black college, Medgar Evers. My English Professor has us read excerpts on Malcolm and Sherman Alexie. I was overjoyed to dig into this assignment. Even after thinking I knew so much, I learned even more. Malcolm and Sherman were both placed in positions to fight back by empowering their youth to beat a system that is set up for their failure.
Reading Shermans words about how the Native youth showed no interest in becoming educated gave me chills. The minority youth gave up before they even took a chance. They lost faith, hope and all courage to take a stand against the forces that drove them down.
They have both given me the courage to continue to stand up and be a voice within my community here in the South Bronx and the importance of sowing this wisdom into the youth here. The future is theirs and THEY ARE OUR RESPONSIBILTY.
Malcolm said you could never catch him in his free time without studying ways to empower a black man! How powerful are those words when in these times most Americans are spending free time in front of a screen, wasting precious time. We are failing our youth.