People Out Loud: Firsts – Bearing witness to a growing nation

November 2022 Posted in Opinion / Columnists

On a number of occasions acknowledgment has been given to “Firsts.” The first Black Supreme Court justice, the first Black QB in the NFL, the first Black president. 

While many have celebrated these firsts, others have condemned these as “making things about a race.” My position is that these firsts are cause for celebration; an acknowledgment of positive change. 

When I think about important firsts, I think about the parents with an eighth grade education watch their youngest child graduate with a college degree. The pride they must feel in knowing they inspired their child to see that anything is possible if they have the desire to achieve it.

I considered it a triumph when the first female astronaut took a rocketship ride into space. There’s no doubt she looks back on her studies and training feeling like the sacrifices were all worth it. She might even find it her role to encourage little girls so they can dream beyond what is deemed traditional.

Most importantly to me, I think about my dear mother, Carol. 

A first she had the fortune to see was the election of the first president of color in our beloved nation. This particular first had a great deal of meaning for her. She had taken advantage of every opportunity in front of her, while knowing other things just were not available to her. Things like certain drinking fountains, bathrooms, or some institutions of higher learning. 

To see Barack Obama elected was a meaningful sign that we were growing as a nation. 

This particular first resulted in her securing tickets to the inauguration. Two busloads – my mom and her peers – took off from Fort Wayne, Indiana headed for D. C. to observe, firsthand, a monumental piece of history.

The motivation to embark was all about feeling as though their journey –  their life journey – was worth it.

They felt as though the work they did to achieve their goals, despite the obstacles, had paid dividends; that they, and those they brought forth, could feel even more as though they belonged. 

Their joy was about seeing a nation grow out of some negative things and  into a place where we can exist together, embracing the things that make us similar as well as those things that make us unique.

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