We Can All Be Agents of Change

2015/01/img_0775.jpg Last night I had the honor of watching Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine speak at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet.

Mr. Green shared many insights on how to be an agent of change. He said if something is in your way, go around it. No matter how big the obstacles may seem, you cannot let them stop out. When there are greater things meant for you, nothing will stand in your way. His words will ring in my ears for years to come, as a reminder of how far we have come and how far we can go, together.

Last night we sang Lift Every Voice and Sing also known as the Black National Anthem. I sang this song all the time growing up. In my early years, I was a minority as a caucasian in a predominately African American school. I knew this song was important. I didn’t know why, but I knew it was because of the way it made me feel when I was singing it with my friends. I didn’t know other people viewed us as different based on the color of our skin. I just knew I had great friends and was thankful for that.

We moved from the big city to a smaller town a few years ago. While a progressive town, it lacks diversity in a number of ways. I realized quickly that my children were going to have a different experience than I did. There are very few people of color in their school. When President Obama was elected, I was overjoyed for many reasons. In the grocery store one day, one of my kids pointed to an African American gentleman and said, “look Mom, it’s President Obama”. It wasn’t him, but one of my kids thought he was based on the color of his skin. I thought to myself, I have some work to do.

People talk about race at this time of year as we take a moment to honor Dr. King and his legacy, or when something happens in the news that makes us stop for a moment. But how often do we talk about race otherwise. I think a lot of well meaning people don’t talk about race relations because it’s scary and they don’t want to say something wrong and be unintentionally offensive.

It’s time to talk about race relations openly. We have been talking a lot about Ferguson in my family. When I shared with them the story of Ernest Green and hatred and injustice he experienced as a high school student, their eyes were as big as saucers. They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to prevent anyone else from going to school.

I think it’s important that kids know what’s going on in the world, and how our families feel about it. Instilling values of kindness, compassion, caring for others and love, start early. In our family we honor, appreciate, and value people of all types. Differences of skin color, sexual orientation, learning styles, and body size make this world beautiful and should be embraced.

As Ernest Green said last night, “we all can be agents of change”. What will you do to change the world?

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