Friday, April 18, 2014

Positive to Counter the Negative

That is how my friend KD always captions an inspirational picture or story about a Black youth on facebook.  Actually, his name is Kady, but since I just found that out last year, I’m not about to stop calling him KD, after nearly 30 years.  Plus, they sound the same. 

At any rate, I would be remiss if I didn’t blog about this topic.  Education is one of the most important values in my life, and if nothing else, I hope to instill the value of a good education to my children.  It is definitely one of the surest ways to get out of poverty.  And come on, learning is fun.

So, in the past few weeks, there have been not one, not two, not three, but four young Black men who were accepted to multiple Ivy League colleges or received multiple scholarships.  But it wasn’t just their academic statuses; these young men were athletically and musically talented.

First I heard about Avery Coffey, who applied and was accepted to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown.  His GPA is 4.3, and he was raised by a single parent in one of the worst neighborhoods in Washington, DC.  He attends a small school, with a no cell phone policy.  As I Googled him so I could share the story with my children, I ran across the story of 18 year old Chad Thomas, who received 150 scholarships for his ability to play football and nine musical instruments.  Thomas chose to stay in Miami and will attend the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music because if he had a choice, music would supersede football.

That was pretty impressive, until I heard about Kwasi Enin, who applied to all eight of the Ivy League colleges and was accepted to all eight.  So along with those five that Coffey was accepted to, Enin also applied to Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth.  Enin, whose strict parents hail from Ghana, is a first-generation American and ranks 11 of 647 in his Long Island class.  He scored 2250 on his SAT ……out of a 2400.  Oh, he also applied to and was accepted by three state universities and Duke.

And you know what happens when a shark attacks someone in Australia?  The next day, a shark attacks someone in Hawaii, and the next week, someone in California gets attacked by a shark.  So I am not sure why I was surprised when I heard about Akintunde Ahmad.  Like Coffey and Enin, he is 17 years old.  He scored 2100 on his SAT and has a 5.0 GPA.  But the thing with Ahmad is that he doesn’t look like your typical 17 year old brainiac.  He is 6’1” with dreads and refers to himself as a “street dude” and lives in Oakland, CA.  Some of the schools he was accepted to are Yale, Brown, Columbia, Northwestern, the University of Southern California, UCLA and Howard.  As if his stellar academic records weren’t enough, Ahmad plays three musical instruments and is a star athlete on his high school’s baseball team.

I think the reason why the accomplishments of these four guys garnished so much media attention is because there is always haste in the media to depict news of young Black men very negatively.  If one is too lazy, too bigoted or both, one would definitely think that most Black youths are pot heads, gangsters and high school dropouts, among other things.  However, someone like me, and many of my family and friends, although quite impressed are not surprised.  My oldest nephew was an academic success, but also played the piano, performed in his school’s plays and musicals, painted and sketched and actually played tennis quite well.  And I have no reason to expect that my three children would not be successful in their endeavors, although I’m realistic enough not to expect 5.0 GPAs or acceptances from all eight Ivy League schools.  But I certainly won’t raise any slackers; that’s for sure.

When The Cosby Show premiered in 1984, critics complained that the show was unrealistic.  After all, how can the husband be a doctor, the wife be a lawyer and the children be well mannered, sophisticated, well-spoken and BLACK?  They just could not reconcile that with what they see on TV.  For hundreds of years, Black people have been academically successful, but their achievements just have gone unrecognized, for most part.  Google Black inventors, and you’ll be amazed to see the vast array of ideas implemented that are making all of our lives easier at the present moment.  It would be nice if our achievements were displayed over the media as often as our crimes and mishaps, but I guess it just wouldn’t sell.  After all, if Black people were seen just like your typical American, who would the boogie man be? 

I shouldn’t have a favorite, but Akintunde is it.  Avery and Kwasi have that clean cut look that doesn’t surprise anyone that they are highly intelligent.  Chad has that look that doesn’t surprise me that he’s great at football.  But Akintunde looks like your typical kid.  The fact that he keeps a photo of his GPA on his cell phone to show skeptics, tells me that like the average kid, his cell phone is never too far from him.  The fact that he mentioned in an interview that his brother invited him to a party one night but because he had to finish an essay he couldn’t attend, only to find out that his brother and a couple other guys were shot, tells me that like the average kid, he waited until the last minute to do his homework.  He lives with both of his parents, not a struggling single mother.  Again, that tells me how average his life is, because although the single mother is highlighted all over the media, more kids than not actually live in a household with a father.  Lastly, he plays musical instruments and likes sports.  It doesn’t get any more average than that!

President Obama once said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon (Martin).”  Well, I have two sons, and perspectively speaking, I hope that in a few years they look like Akintunde!