Filed Under:  Arts & Culture, Civil Rights, Education, National, News

The hard truth – For Mom, the Freedom Fighter, on Juneteenth

29th June 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Min. J Kojo Livingston
The Louisiana Weekly Contributing Columnist

This past Sunday was June­teenth and Father’s Day. On that day at the Juneteenth Father’s Day Freedom Fighter’s Festival in Shreveport on the MLKing/Coop­er Rd. Destiny 1 Ministries celebrated the tradition of Black resistance to oppression that helped end the formal system of slavery in the United States.

We celebrated the thousands of Black soldiers who fought in the Civil War to end slavery. We also celebrated people like Gabriel Prosser, Harriet Tubman, Den­mark Vesey and Nathaniel Turner who refused to accept life as a slave and organized revolts or escapes. We looked at others such as Paul Cuffe, Martin R. Delaney, Marcus Garvey, Queen Mother Moore, Elijah Muhammad, Mal­colm X and Imari Obadele who fought for Black self-determination.

Juneteenth is important because we need to remember where we have come from and how we really came to where we are today. Slavery did not end because Lincoln decided to sign a document. It ended because Blacks and whites fought and died to end it. Today slavery is returning in different forms because we stopped being vigilant.

We used this Juneteenth to open to the community a new force in the ongoing fight for freedom – Grandmothers House: The Frances Livingston Center.

My mom moved to Shreveport in 1987 after retiring from over 30 years with the same Los Angeles toy company. Before that she had been a school teacher. Education was always in her blood. She was fanatic about reading, learning and using proper grammar. (Let’s just say she had a lot more respect for the king and his English than I do.)

In her own right my mom was a Freedom Fighter. She went to her grave fighting to free her people from ignorance. She was passionate about reaching the children that she loved. It was this love that earned her the name/title “Grandmother.” Many have told me that they never knew her real name. At 86 you’d think she’d just kick back and take it easy but she loved being a foster grand­parent and volunteering every day at Linear Middle School. She also loved comforting those who faced tragedies in their lives.

Mom was deeply disturbed about the state of Black parenting. You see, I came up during the time when Black parents used to brag about how much better we behaved than white children. You would not see a Black child having a tantrum or disrespecting their parents. When Mom would see a white child acting out in a store, she would start fussing at me, warning me what would happen, “If you ever even THINK about…”

Things have changed now. Black folks lost those bragging rights over 25 years ago when we decided to let schools and gangsta rappers shape the minds of our children. The fact that many families have dropped the ball means that responsible people in our communities must step up. Whatever their condition, these children belong to us. They are ours and our responsibility.

If we don’t become aggressive about reaching our youth we run the risk of creating a generation of savages; human beings without the merest notion of what it means to function in a civilized society. No concept of discipline. No concept of respect. No concept of responsibility. If we allow this to continue there will be no place to run and we will collectively provide the justification for the continued mass incarceration or genocide against our people.

The Frances Livingston Center will address literacy, parenting, child ad­vocacy, leadership development and other needs of the community. That little house is going to make a big difference in a lot of lives. And we’re doing it with our own resources and the help of people in the community who care.

The Bible says in John 12:24, that unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it stays alone, but if it does die much fruit comes from it. That’s the principle behind Grandmother’s House. It is our choice whether the death of a loved one will simply be a loss or become the planting of a seed. For me it’s both. Her death is still the worst pain I have ever felt/feel in my entire life. But what is important is not just the pain we feel but what we do about it.

My mom’s legacy is taken care of. The question/challenge is what about yours? Who or what will you make an impact on?

Each of us must become freedom fighters. Each must do our part to make this world a better place. The alternative is to sit like sorry spectators and watch the world burn down around us.

So, Whatchagonna DO?

This article originally published in the June 27, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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