Celebrate young people surpassing conventional expectations
It was refreshing to pick up the paper and read about pilot Barrington Irving being the first man or woman of African blood (not to mention the youngest person of any color) to fly Earth's circumference. And it was highly rewarding to read why he took up the challenge in the first place - the fact that he sought to motivate inner-city and minority youth (among others) to think about going after careers in aviation and aerospace. It was refreshing to pick up the paper and read about pilot Barrington Irving being the first man or woman of African blood (not to mention the youngest person of any color) to fly Earth's circumference. And it was highly rewarding to read why he took up the challenge in the first place - the fact that he sought to motivate inner-city and minority youth (among others) to think about going after careers in aviation and aerospace. I was impressed for the same reason that it surprised and delighted me to learn that Mint Condition keyboardist Lawrence Waddell had at one time earned a pilot's license (and is now concluding advanced calculus studies at the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois). It isn't any great love of seeing folk get up off the ground, but a depthless appreciation of undertakings that step outside proscribed conventions. In the case of Waddell, it's outstanding that he spends his time in such pursuits instead of fulfilling the celebrity stereotype of baby-making and/or revolving-door rehab superstar. In the instance of Babbington Irving, he has stepped into a realm of history previously reserved for the likes of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart - boldly going where no Black flyer has gone before.
The importance of our youth departing from conventional expectations cannot be overestimated. After all, there are only so many openings in the world for basketball stars, football icons, American Idol winners and near-winners. Black youth of the inner cities can use all the role models we can give them for broadening their field of aspirations (you can believe those in the "outer city" have already had it drummed into them that there are such things as doctors, lawyers and congressional representatives of color).
The irony is that, long before America let us into entertainment and athletics, we were contributing in fields that called for intellect and invention. For instance, Granville Woods patented (and eventually sold to the American Bell Telephone Company) a combination of the telephone and telegraph, allowing a telegraph station to transmit voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. He also developed the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which let dispatchers know the location of trains, thereby decreasing railway accidents. Thomas Edison tried to claim credit for both, but Woods beat him in court.
Miriam E. Benjamin invented a Gong and Signal Chair for hotels that, as stated in her patent application, "[reduced] the expenses of hotels by decreasing the number of waiters and attendants, to add to the convenience and comfort of guests and to obviate the necessity of hand clapping or calling aloud to obtain the services of pages." May not sound like much, but every hotel in the world uses it.
Dr. Charles Drew researched the field of blood transfusions, improved techniques for blood storage, developed large-scale blood banks and devised the process that yielded blood plasma. And he died after a car accident, when the nearest hospital refused to treat him.
There's tons more. Engineers, inventors, scholars, writers, artists, photographers, composers, you name it -- in America and literally around the world.
These are things, of course, that they do not tell kids - of any color - at school, lying by omission to establish an impression of innate White supremacy. It keeps White kids holding their heads higher-than and robs Black kids of heroes they could be emulating - narrowing, in the process, their choices for how to get out of the trick bag into which America insidiously and ruthlessly has sewn them.
There is nothing in the world wrong with a youngster wanting to throw a ball or sing and dance when he or she grows up. There's also nothing wrong with him and her knowing the full breadth of options that lies before them if the