Where is the “Gap In The Bookshelf”
by William Jackson, Prof. at Edward Waters College
The importance of reading and writing can never be diminished,
the power of independent thought, imagination and vision is a
powerful piece of personal growth and development.
The memories of personal sacrifices from beatings, torture and even
death has vanished from the minds of Blacks that through the
generations are lead in the wrong direction by and of assimilation
and associations that are literally killing generations of Black youth.
The bookshelf of life is important because Black children need to
learn who they are and where they come from. The importance
of fathers to teach this is so valuable that each generation that does
not have a connection with their fathers is being lost in a world
of assimilation and association that is leading Black children to
places they should not go. Fathers are the Gap in the Bookshelf for
their children. The fill a gap that only a father can do my teaching
The words of Chinua Achebe ring true in 2014 because he stated,
“adults and children are forgetting the continuity of the generations
remember the past sacrifices so you can grow beyond just surviving.”
Black parents must start to teach their children and their grandchildren
the power of education, this education must come from home first if
Black children are to respect learning and growth and the architects
which are the teachers of schools.
Blacks must understand as was once stated by Achebe that Blacks cannot
put themselves in white’s shoes and live their lives. There will be no
change unless Blacks put themselves in positions to learn and gain
education that allows them to compete even on an uneven playing field.
Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian author that was known and honored as the
foundation of Nigerian literature from his books, poems and diverse
writings. As an educator I see many of the similarities that Blacks have
and are experiencing that have happened in Nigeria, South Africa
and other areas of Africa from colonization and apartied.
Blacks that deny the cultural heritage and acceptance of African
ancestry are destroying their foundation as a people and are slowly
being assimilated into a culture that is still racist and refuses in many
ways to truly accept people of color. Yes there is a Black President, but
look at the attacks he faces from those who do not even honor the position
of President of the United States of America.
“Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed
by history and by providence to perform.” Chinua Achebe
Black homes should be cradling and setting their homes on a foundation
of reading and writing. Not the accumulation of things that diminish in time
and have no value after several months. These commodities are temporary
and will be used and destroyed or replaced over time by the newest model
that is put on the shelves of stores. Black homes should be filled with books
and Black children as Achebe states “children should be fascinated by books.”
Even Malcolm X as controversial as he still is exclaimed the value of learning,
reading and cultural respect and understanding.
The power of reading allows children to see themselves as human beings and
not the fodder of violence, hopelessness and self-destruction that the media
and entertainment industry project them as. There are two ways that Blacks
can change their direction in life from my opinion; living in this multicultural
society change will only come when Blacks accept education as the foundation
of cultural growth in this society. Sharing the successes of past and current
Blacks and Blacks should sit down with each other first to solve t heir cultural
and community problems. Achebe having lived through colonization and the
fight for independence through wars and upheaval wisely states that
“we should not carry the baggage of race and racism into the 21st century.”
The issue of race and racism is rampant in the Black community itself, it is
being denied and ignored, termed Colorism. These feelings and self destructive
actions must stop because it will continue to destroy Blacks from within,
like a cancer that festers and grows to a point where even surgery will not save
a people. Just as there are in life many types of cancers the same applies to the
ills of Blacks. Blacks must change their thinking on a wide scale, not allowing
jealousy and fear to aid in the growth of cultural hate. Parents in Black
communities must understand that they are the foundation for their Black
children so must examine their foundations and change them in order to help
their children to be better than they are.
Blacks cannot wait for a President to make changes for them, they cannot
wait for the government to make changes and they cannot wait for churches
to make changes. The change must be a priority through the value of learning
and growth. Too many Black children believe they are not important and
feel they are intellectually inferior. One reason is because they lack the
knowledge of past successes of Blacks throughout history. Achebe has stated
in a quote that when people control what you think they control who you are
and what you may become. The entertainment industry, movies, television
programming and other media depict Blacks as second class citizens so
Black youth embrace this way of thinking and transfer it to real live.
Chinua Achebe “…mediocrity destroys the very fabric of a country as surely
as a war — ushering in all sorts of banality, ineptitude, corruption and debauchery,”
and Black parents in this age of technology and learning cannot and can never
accept mediocrity in their children. What story will be told of their lives and their
children, will it be of academic success or societal dependence on welfare, EBT
cards and food handouts?
Achebe states: “Storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of control,
they frighten usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the human spirit — in state,
in church or mosque, in party congress, in the university or wherever.”
Parents must provide and atmosphere of greatness, high self-esteem and
self worth. Who else can on a daily mission tell their beautiful and intelligent
children that they are important, they are intelligent and can be successful.
As an educator having struggled myself with reading at a young age, I now
embrace books, I try to share the empowerment of learning and the importance
of reading. Parents need to look carefully at the stories – content their children
are reading and exposed too. Encourage literary that ignites a fire to learn
Black children’s minds are like blank parchments or blank paper waiting for
the colors, texts and movies that guide their thinking and even influence their
feelings to be placed on the paper of memories. Poverty has and continues to
embrace Black communities, not because there are no jobs, but because Blacks
are not prepared for new jobs in areas like STEAM / STEM Science Technology
Engineering Arts Mathematics.
Assimilation and association cannot be continued because those being assimilated
loose their attempt to be something they are not. Blacks must learn other
cultures cannot put value in their lives or their children’s lives. So Blacks must
empower themselves to grow out of poverty, oppression, political weakness and
Blacks must be able to learn from the society they live in, but cannot afford to lose
their cultural traditions that engage reading, comprehension and learning.
The power of literature:
Toni Morrison Reads “English and the African Writer” by Chinua Achebe