Why my black is beautiful…
My name in Hebrew means, “asked of God”, and for all my life I’ve been wondering, what exactly did they ask for? I come from a legacy of men with great ambitions for their families. From my paternal great grandfather Marshall Wakefield, a sharecropper who escaped away on a horse in the middle of the night, riding from McCormick, South Carolina to the upstate to settle with his new bride and to pursue a career in railroad engineering (a rare occupation for a black man at the time- given that he couldn’t read or write). As the story goes, he used to tell my father, I may not be able to read or write, but I can count. The legacy continues with my father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, and brother who have each faithfully served their own country via the military, even at a time when their country wouldn’t acknowledge them. On my mother’s side of the family, education was our legacy. My great aunt was a leading educator in South Carolina, helping to integrate schools in Orangeburg while also serving in numerous roles at nearby Claflin College (a historically black college). She was the first of many women in my family to use education as an escape out of poverty and into the middle class. She is the one taught me how to read and write, and she (and my grandmother) are the reasons why I became an educator. I remember when I took my youngest sister to enroll at Claflin College several years ago, as we walked across the campus we came across several bricks of donors, trustees, folks the college was indebted to. There on a brick was my auntie’s name.
My success has come because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants. I’ve always felt that the one thing these ambitious dreamers always wanted most, was to provide for their families a life of dignity and hope so elusive to them. I am the carrier of the dreams of my forefathers, the third generation of Samuel’s, and I take this responsibility with pride. But there’s more work to be done.
Below represents the beauty of the people I care about most. From my family, to a young picture of my father, my older brother, and myself, to a recent family reunion. I am proud that despite our greatest struggles, our family has remained strong, connected to each other and our past.