Spoken Like A Child: Wisdoms from the Heart

I just began my summer vacation here and I have had some time to think about life, to meet with friends new and old, and to create memories from camera moments some which I can laugh at and others which make me long for a simpler time, like when I was a child. I want to talk a little about children, and why I believe that the world can be changed through the eyes of a child.

Aime Cesaire, writer, activist and Africanist, among other accolades once said, wisely,” “Out of the sky, the birds, the parrots, the bells, silk, cloth, and drums, out of Sundays dancing, children’s words and love words, out of love for the little fists of children, I will build a world, my world with round shoulders.” Aime Cesaire who passed on this year holds a dear place in my heart for expressing the dreams of Africans everywhere, who dared to hope for freedoms that many in other parts of the world only whispered in their sleep, when the colonial master was not listening. I see the mother of two generations nursing her child in the middle of the Emergency in 1952 knowing that this child would have a better future, because we would be certainly free.

But this post is about more than just Cesaire, and thinking further on that quote, I wandered back to my own relatively idyllic childhood, filled with space to dream and imagine and achieve, where there was Whitney Houston singing, ” I am every Woman” and happy birthday songs and singing games. My earliest memories are fairly recent to many friends, I was a child of the 1990s, and schooled before the traffic congestion in Nairobi grew to its current mammoth state. We could cross town to go to school and I remember being on the bus, I must have been eight or nine, and thinking, “What am I doing in school, I need to be out there, doing a real thing, taking a place in society.” But the bus lumbered on to school, and little did I know that the years would indeed take me far away into multiple societies.

A dream brought me farther into the world than I have ever dreamed to date, where I am three continents and sixteen hours plane ride away from Kenya, where I started to dream.”Out of love for the little fists of children…I will build a world, my world with round shoulders.”My radio alarm wakes me in the morning now, and I roll out of the house going to my workplace. I sometimes wake up with a track playing that inevitably have a line urging people to ‘raise your fists in the air…keep your head up” and as I pen this post, I see a sea of children from all over the world lost in childhood games clutching at their toys and running amok, building hope that the future will be this simple, where the games they play have a fair outcome, that is what I think when I see a world with round round shoulders. I see children with a shoulder to lean on always. A shoulder you can put your arms around and hug, where you can feel secure. Yes, I see all these things at the crack of dawn when the sun creeps in through the blinds and Corinne Bailey Rae sings ‘Like a Bird’ and croons ‘when everything else is au fait, without a doubt you’re on my side,”

Aside from what the morning makes me think of, I do believe that educating children is key to the making of the world with round shoulders. I sought nothing but a story on a school in the memory of a mother, in Sukuma Kenya’s blog, when a passerby’s comment led me to Gabriela Mistral’s quote “We are guilty of many errors and many faults but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow.’ His name is ‘Today.’”Did you know that the Chilean was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature? When we silence children or fail to discipline them, we steal their future.

I had an early start to the day talking to two African American friends, separately about the Philadelphia school system and the cycle of despair. Two scenarios came to mind. That of the children of many of the black families here, whose homes are serially broken; whose siblings may be from different fathers, who may or may not be part of their lives; whose chances of completing high school are slim. The other scenario was of their demoralized teachers, paid so little to impart a world of wisdom on children whose frustrations with a culturally insensitive educational system made them feel like outsiders before they even began. We also spoke of the reasons why many children of color from lower middle class and poor backgrounds stop school and enter the workforce, too young to develop a critical mind and too jaded to consider the possibilities of pursuing a college education.

The coffee in my hand seemed colder after these conversations, and the comfort of a warm breakfast doing little to soother the intense sensation of looking into a very deep problem with no bottom, whose waters were so murky you dared not let your mind imagine the possibilities. What of children in the developing world, who woke every day to gnawing hunger for food, who watched their parents eke out a bare-bones living, a stripped down version of living poor in the west, which they only knew from the second hand clothes they wore that came from there. The children’s world, such as in Africa where they were oblivious to the fact that their future was being decided in Japan, people in suits discussing how much Africa would have from the global cake of resources.

After all the talking, and breakfast, and thinking, I turned to another wise quote, this time from a letter my Pa sent me: “In a world of scarcity you continue enjoying abundance that is not threatened. You enjoy health that many in the world will only dream about. You have hope that knows no boundaries.” I am truly fortunate to have these dreams, these ‘dreams from my father’ to paraphrase the title of Obama’s book. Where there could have been much despair, I have been blessed, and I appreciate every ounce of love, every drop of sweat from the village that raised me and got me to where I am now.

So today, love your children, your nieces and nephews, your students, your future. Let them know they can dream, and push them to the best they can be. Bless them with love, do not withhold your correction. Teach them to be independent. Reclaim your own childhood years, you came from two parents and have half of yourself from each, but your destiny does not lie in your birthright, you are 100 percent you.

And because I love encouraging women, I leave you with the lyrics to India Arie’s ‘Beautiful Flower’ – paraphrased and emphasis mine.

This is a song for every girl who’s
Ever been through something she thought she couldn’t make it through
I sing these words because
I was that girl too
Wanting something better than this
But who do I turn to

Now we’re moving from the darkness into the light
This is the defining moment of our lives

‘Cause you’re beautiful like a flower
More valuable than a diamond
You are powerful like a fire
You can heal the world with your mind

There is nothing in the world that you cannot do
When you believe in you, who are beautiful
Yeah, you, who are brilliant
Yeah, you, who are powerful
Yeah, you, who are resilient

This is a song for every girl who
Feels like she is not special
‘Cause she don’t look like a supermodel Coke bottle
The next time the radio tells you to shake your moneymaker
Shake your head and tell them, tell them you’re a leader

Now we’re moving from the darkness into the light
This is the defining moment of our lives

(song continues on…go fetch more lyrics online)

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