Black people, have a rich and diverse history. Our journeys are as varied as the hues of our beautiful skin. We as a people have overcome great struggles and great adversity and have displayed incredible resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds to make great strides both individually and collectively.

We as a people were taught to live communally. Looking out for the whole as well as the one; thriving in our interdependence. We shopped together and we played together. We worked together and we prayed together. We struggled together and we rejoiced together. One neighbor’s problem was everybody’s problem can be solved it together.

Whether it was selling dinners at the church or throwing a “Rent Party” we were there for each other. It was Miss Brenda watching everybody’s kids on the block. It was Ms. Star sending a meal to that family down the block without food. Accompanying words like “Millie, I want you to taste this” kept the family’s pride intact.

These manners of thoughts, words, and deeds are the fibers of the cloth from which we are cut as a people. These are the foundations that have been laid for us. It may not look exactly the same for each of us but the general premise of living communally was there.

As the years have progressed and we have strived we for the “American dream” we have taken on different values. We have become far more individualistic. We have gone from “I am because we are and we are because I am” and “I am my brother’s keeper” to “My four and no more”.

My question to us is this: what have we gained from this endeavor? It seems that we work more and have less. We may have more money, cars, houses, and things, but we have less of the neighborhood community spirit which is what truly fed us and made us strong. We have more diabetes, high blood pressure, and strokes; we are living long and living large but we’re living sicker.

We as a people have a great many strengths that can be traced back to our roots in Africa. These are key elements to our wellness as a people. It is time for us to take three simple steps in easy reach: Remember, Reflect, and Return to things which served us well for generations.

1. Remember what our communities were like when we didn’t have the plagues of violence and drugs. Look back upon the times when you were growing up. Ask yourself: What were the things that happened in your community that you remember as being good? What do you remember that bring a smile to your face when you think about it? What are the things, when you look back, that you credit as making you proud to be the person you are today?

2. Reflect – I’m not saying take a romanticized sweep over it. Rather, to take a critical look at those elements of our lifestyle that promoted our health and wellness. We must identify what those things were, who did them, what they looked like, why did they work, and how or why we lost them.

3. Then we must Return. Make a deliberate conscious effort to return to those customs or actions that promoted our mental wellness and kept our communities thriving. This will mean much teaching and learning by all of us. This will mean us, as a community, must withhold our critical judgments of one another. We must change the question we ask from “What’s wrong with us?” to “What happened to us?” Taking time to fully recognize and acknowledge the effects of historical and current trauma on our lives.

These steps bring us as a community to the answer “let us rebuild”. The Bible says that God chooses the young because they are strong and He chooses the old because they know the way. It will take all of us to remember reflect and return. We will all need to be learners and teachers.

With love, I remind us of some tangible, concrete steps that we can take to begin to rebuild our communities and ourselves.

  • If you don’t know them, introduce yourself to your neighbor.
  • Say “Hi” to the youth on your street when you come out if they are outside.
  • Help an elder on your street with putting their can out or pulling it back on trash day.
  • Do a random act of kindness for someone on your street

You may think that these things won’t make a difference. But if we, as community, commit to doing these simple things and adding to them as we continue to remember and reflect. We can begin to turn our communities around. We can begin to rebuild. People often look for big solutions and grandiose plans; silver bullets to fix our problems and save us. But, as I close I would like to share some quotes with you that I believe speak to my point. I hope that they inspire you as they inspire me.

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” ―Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

All my love always,
Melanie