I attended my first Florida A&M University graduation.
My journey only took several hours, the accomplishments
of Darryl “TopShelf” McClenton his journey started after
graduation from Raines High School in Jacksonville, Florida.
I should correct myself the journey is not just his, but his
family that supported him to matriculation. His mother
Cheryl laboured, not just worked, but laboured to see her
sons graduate college and put aside her dreams of a college
diploma as so many mothers do to support their children.
The eldest is a graduate of South Carolina State University;
the youngest attends Tallahassee Community College.
The focus is on Darryl and his accomplishment, graduating
Cum Laude from Florida A&M University. What a testament
to the foundation of success laid by a solid education from
Raines High School, the prayers, sacrifices of a determined
mother who worked sometimes multiple 12 hour shifts as
a nurse and at times had two jobs. Driving to the University
a day early making sure Cheryl saw another son graduate.
Just as my mother saw me graduate from college, more
mothers need to see their children graduate and more
fathers need to support their children’s quest to be educated.
There are too many mothers alone, while fathers “claim”
to help, do nothing, try to take unearned credit. Thank you
to the fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and men that are
stepping in and contributing.
During our journey we talked about the achievements of
our children and sacrifices as parents. My oldest is a freshman
at Florida A&M and my youngest is a high school freshmen.
Cheryl and I share our hopes, dreams and expectations for
our children’s success and paths in life. Somehow this has
stopped in many families, instead there is mutual disagreement
on the value for education. Thus the child suffers in the end
particularly when parents divorce or one parent is uncaring
and unwilling to help. As we traveled down I10 we listened
to music, it is amazing how musical lyrics perpetuate emotions
that bring about memories. The song that stood out from
melodies of Marvin Gaye, Luther, Temptations, Isley Brothers
and others was a gospel song “God Specializes”. We gave
glory to God because he does specialize in supplying all
our needs long as we are faithful, hopeful and recognize
where our true strength as parents comes from.
President Barack Obama has stated, “In a global economy
where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge,
good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity –
it is a pre-requisite.”
Fast forward to graduation day, we met up with family, friends,
this was not just Darryl’s graduation, but the family’s achievement
also. There are few events in a young person’s life that is
interconnected to family. The accomplishment of earning a
college degree brings families together in a unification of spirit
There is a connection of family as a whole, each member
has contributed; has a vested interest in seeing that young
lady or young man earn their diploma. If there was more of
an emotional and energetic attachment to academic excellence
as there is to sports and entertainment there would be more
minority doctors, teachers, surgeons, engineers, entrepreneurs,
business owners, scientists and community activists.
More of our communities would flourish instead of crumbling
because of devaluing of education, lack of respect for self,
others, community and even God.
“Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world.”
As an educator, African American male and parent my heart
swelled with pride, felt my soul would sing witnessing so
many young people of African American descent, and other
cultures accomplish this wonderful thing. Today their families
witnessed the fruits of their labour, tears, prayers, hard work
Viewing the ceremony gave me pause to the growing value
of education these young people realized. Obtaining an
education is not just learning the alphabet, the numerical
organization of numbers, deciphering the calculative formula
to perform mathematical equations. Education is not just
learning civics, biology, physics, world history and a foreign
language, all these are important.
Bill Cosby stated, “Education is the most powerful
weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Obtaining an education is development of a person’s mind,
to expand psychological perceptions, ideologies making
positive contributions in our communities and the world.
The lack of education proves “A Mind is a Terrible Thing
to Waste” because of the wasteful actions of youth
resulting from drug use, incarceration, multiple unprotected
Watching graduates enter; the atmosphere was electrifying
all over Lawson, Jr. Multipurpose Center. This graduation
shows not all African American males are on drugs,
incarcerated, or have death knocking on their doors.
That not all African American women are pregnant,
uneducated, on welfare, have low self esteem and only
aspiring to do hair, nails or work in Dollar General, Dollar
Tree or in a fast food establishment. There is
nothing wrong with employment at these places supporting
yourself and family, our young women and men need to
understand they can aspire to grow beyond these employment
positions; instead seek management or ownership of a business.
For their families they are the best, brightest, the talented
and guiding lights. The graduates are the extensions of their
families, communities, churches, and their respective high
schools. These young ladies and young men did not and are
not “Waiting For Superman or Superwoman” they are SUPER
in their individual and respective ways. They are motivated
to move forward in life and not to be stuck in a modern day
Lodebar in biblical terms. Lodebar is a dismal place of no
pasture and no hope, total desolation. There is a psychological
Lodebar when you were crushed by the storms of life and
believed that life is over for you because of tough economic
or physical challenges.
The Commencement Address by Donna Brazile spoke of
this generation’s ability to access digital content online
using tools that were not available 10 years ago. This
generation and those to come not only read digital content,
but are creators of multimedia content that can be accessed
globally influencing future political, economic, social and
cultural changes in our world. As she spoke I could only pray
and have faith that my son and daughter and the kids I
teach will graduate from college and move on to advanced
degrees. The ironic twist my dreams as a parent and teacher
are contradictory to many others who only hope their child is
drafted in the NFL, NBA, etc counting only on money that is
an intangible commodity that can come and go, as fleeting
as the careers of many athletes who shine for a while, but
then subside into bankruptcy and poverty. This does not have
to be, as Brazile spoke that these graduates are an agitation
for change and have a duty for continued growth. The high
expectations are for these young men and women are to
defend what we as a country have accomplished.
The accomplishments of these graduating students are
setting the foundation for further social and cultural change.
These young men and women are role models for other
children in their homes, high schools, churches, and
communities. Just as Darryl is, graduating from Raines
which has received unfavourable media coverage about
the failing students, I ask what of the successful students,
why do we not hear more about them?
Brazile challenged the graduates to soar and grab hold
of the future to make the world a better place for everyone.
The foundation has been laid, the building blocks of upward
mobility and competitiveness in global economy, dynamic
political environments, operating rooms, courtrooms,
classrooms of our county, future scientific discoveries and
exploration in space and deep oceans are within the grasps
of graduates from educational institutions such as Florida
A&M University. Only time and God will tell how these
students use their talents for the betterment of mankind.
Congratulations to Darryl “Topshelf” McClenton class of
2010, who will continue his education at FAMU working
on his Master Degree in Educational Leadership.
Congratulations and God’s continued Blessings upon all
the graduates and their aspirations.
God’s grace on the families that support and will continue
to support these graduates. As my sister Dawn from Philly
uses the term, “Don’t’ get it twisted” African American
young people are making right choices in valuing the
power of education. Don’t get it twisted parents, empower
your children with value for what education can do.
Written in the “Education of the Negro”, by
Carter G. Woodson, page 172.
Almost every Colored person who could read and write
was a missionary teacher among his people.
This still applies in the 21st century; we are all
missionaries to our people and each generation.
We must Educate, Encourage and Empower (E3 motto)
each other as we grow so as a people others grow with us.