I picked up a copy of a local newspaper to read one of the front-page stories:
“President Obama Calls Mayor-Elect.”
As a Hip Hop Republican, I really didn’t know how to feel about the reality I was reading, considering that it crystallized two recent electoral defeats.
As a Davidson Wildcat, though, it did make me smile.
After all, not long ago, there were several young Black men sitting at the dining commons as college freshmen, talking about how we were in rarified air: we were Black men on the Davidson College campus. During those first few weeks of first semester, the talk escalated about what we were, what we symbolized, and what we could achieve during the course of our time in college. Several took the risk to proclaim where they thought that they would be in 10 years.
Ironically, one of us knew where he would be in 20 years, and despite the coincidence, it has nothing to do with the Obama Effect. In fact, much of it happened without it.
And where the victory of Anthony Foxx as Charlotte’s second African-American (and youngest-ever) mayor-elect will be seen through a prism crafted by the Era of Obama, it would be short-sighted to attribute this as a trendy win due to a historic presidential election a year before. As I learned once again after seeing long-lost classmates over the course of a 2-day span last week, there is always the temptation to ignore the steps walked from planning goals to making history – a dangerous rue to alienate people from understanding the process of discipline that often determines our level of prosperity. Seeing the successful people they are today reminded me of the challenged students we were not too long ago.
It is a lot easier to accept that there is power in the examples of select “rock stars” than it is to harass the power of people that is exemplified in those select few. Granted, there is inspiration found in the historic victories in rising politicians. Just as I had the opportunity to tell the first Black mayor (Harvey Gantt) the impact his example had on both Mr. Foxx and me as college students, someone will one day tell Foxx how he served as a muse for young people to pursue challenging and meaningful goals. However, the true examples that we must look to in these victories are the accomplishments of progress over complacency and lethargy that keeps us from investing in the future.
Both Obama and Foxx were prepared behind the scenes for years by mentors and supporters that saw the potential they had. These supporters took time and resources to cultivate winners – in politics and in life – in order to provide these men opportunities to succeed. If we are going to find more victories in our communities, we must challenge ourselves to look past the images of the winners standing at podiums on Election Night and focus on the examples of giving back to our young people, molding them into winners long before the cameras, newspapers, and fame learned how to pronounce a funny-looking first name and remembered to put an extra “X” on a common last name.
In an era where uncommon people can come from simple beginnings, it is up to us to begin claiming common victories in the midst of unacceptable conditions in our communities. For every Obama or Foxx, there are scores of Derrion Alberts in the nation, struck down by needless violence and our inability to stay engaged enough to make the needed change.
And perhaps we can help our cubs from running wild and guide them towards the right goals to pursue.