Local Voices: Strengthening Black People’s Fragile Freedom In America

On the first Sunday of Black History month, I was invited to First Baptist Church Berkley to join the men’s Sunday school class in their Black history month program.  The focus was on Black American history but the program quickly turned to our young children and what skills they must be taught to strengthen the fragile hold on freedom that Black Americans have in America today.  

To show how fragile Black people’s freedom is in America, we used the example of how easy it was for the NFL and President Trump to threaten the First Amendment Rights of Black NFL football players.  Most NFL football players are educated and rich.  When the Black players used their First Amendment Rights to kneel in protest of police brutality against Black people, the NFL threatened to fire players who knelt doing the playing of the national anthem.  Black parents have always been led to believe that a good education and hard work would allow us our freedom.   That is not true as in the case of the NFL football players who fail to stand for the playing of the national anthem.

My contention is that young Black children should be taught to focus on how corporate America, political America and technical America operate to control the strength of our freedom in America.  In sports and music, Black people have made great progress.  Also some impact has been made in the communications world.  Blacks have had success in the media as writers, news anchors, and public relations.  But that’s not enough. Black children must understand that success in the corporate and political arenas provide more security and freedom for Black folk than sports, music and communications. 

Black children should be taught at a young age about Fortune 500 companies and the power and influence they have on our daily lives.  Although these companies control most of the business part of our lives, there are only three Black CEOs among these corporations.  Black children must be taught to focus on entrepreneurship and market investments.  They should own and build their own businesses.

Furthermore, they should be adept at investing in the market through stocks and bonds as well as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s) and the 401(k) savings plan sponsored by an employer.  Indeed owning businesses and investing in the market gives power and influence in decision making. 

Black children need to know more about the political system and how legislators set policies that impact our freedom, safety and security.  Policies are continuously being made that negatively impact Black people’s freedom and security.  We need to teach our Black children how important voting rights are and how Black people’s voting rights are being challenged.  They should be prepared to participate in the political arena as they get older.  Not enough Blacks participate in the political arena to change policies that negatively impact Black people.  

I was at a Norfolk State University basketball game several nights ago and the game was being televised by ESPN.  I looked down at the table where the announcer and score-keepers were sitting and noticed that except for one Black female, all the technical people were white men.  If that’s happening at a predominately Black university that’s proof that we need more young Black children focusing on technology.      

One of the men in the Sunday school class asked me “where do we start?”  I told him “right here at this church.”  As I entered the church I saw a number of children who were around the ages of 6 to 8 years old getting ready for their Sunday school classes.  While teaching them the bible, the teachers could also expose them to the subjects we mentioned above.

There are many issues that we as Black people have and are dealing with to protect and strengthen our freedom in America, but I feel that understanding and participating in corporate and political America for our young people is super important for us to continue our journey toward gaining our freedom in America!  

Shedrick Byrd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide, he is the author of the book “The Mississippi Byrd, from Rural to Urban to Suburban and Beyound.”

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