For the past few days, I’ve been in Albany, Georgia leading a community leadership journey with a number of my colleagues from Atlanta. Along with us have been a group of students, community members, staff members, and several teachers from Atlanta. We came to Albany, Georgia to explore the legacy of the Civil Rights movement here, and to connect our own personal leadership to the movement. Yesterday, we visited the Albany Civil Rights Institute and spent time with several civil rights activists including The Freedom Singers, Mr. and Mrs. Perdew, and leaders from the town including Mayor Hubbard and retired educator Dr. Hudley. We sat in the very church Dr. King led mass meetings in, and sang the songs that the Freedom Singers led during the People’s Movement. During our time together these impressive elders left us educators with a charge:
Work at what you’re doing as if those you love are dependent upon you succeeding. Teach them about our history. Teach them that they can be the change. We made this our fight, you’ve got to make it yours. Know the population you’re serving. You can’t lead a people that you don’t understand. Remember that you’re standing on the broad shoulders of those who came before you. Stay where you are. You are duty bound. I require this of you.
Afterwards over dinner the room full of community members, students, teachers and staff members had a real dialogue about what we learned that day. The first powerful moment began when Steven (a student) got up to share his anger and frustration with what he learned today about the inhumanity of our past, and the injustices that continue. His brother Quinton then shared his own emotional reaction to the day from what he learned. Several teachers shared their new-found conviction about the need to teach their students their history. One black male teacher shared a poignant personal story about his own conviction for making sure his black students understood the value of our brotherhood. We had a discussion about the pride that comes from knowing who you are, where you come from, and the danger of forgetting our past both as individuals and as a people. We had a white male teacher stand up and share his own personal charge to other white teachers to be better allies in this fight, by choosing to explore issues of privilege, race, and class in order to understand their brothers plight. There was a beautiful back and forth conversation between the students and the teachers where each asked the other to define leadership.
Overall, I left feeling like yesterday was a healing moment for our group. And it reminded me of Dr. Hudley’s words, you are duty bound, and I got to thinking. What specifically am I duty bound to do? I believe that I’m doing it right now. I’m duty bound by my personal faith to be a model for the love of God in this world. I’m duty bound as husband to be the best partner I can be to my wife. I’m duty bound as a father to ensure my brilliant little girls fulfill my daily prayer to be like Queen Esther, women of character and conviction, capable of leading whenever the time calls for it. Finally, I’m duty bound as a black man in America to ensure that other young black men are positioned to lead in our families and communities.
It’s amazing that my job allows me to think about empowering others to lead in my community. I get to do just that by creating experiences and reflection opportunities for them to do so. Last night as I watched the conversation unfold, I just sat back and enjoyed it happening. It’s a sweet thing to know and actually do what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. I’m just thankful for the opportunities to daily discover my path and I pray for God’s wisdom to stay on the right course. What are you duty bound to do?