What Will Be Your Legacy?
Martin Luther King, Jr. had one. Malcolm X left one behind also. Just recently, Gerald LeVert and James Brown added their names to the list.
All of these men left something behind that have made huge impacts in many lives for generations to come. They left a legacy that makes one proud to be African Americans.
Most people think that one must be famous or of celebrity stature to be able to have a legacy. A legacy is defined as something that is handed down to another. Therefore, in reality, everyone will leave one behind.
Will yours be something that will make your family and generations to come proud of you or embarrassed and ashamed of you?
In a time where African-American males are looked upon more as menaces than influential, it is time for us to decide what we will leave behind for future generations.
If something were to happen to you tomorrow, what would people remember and say about the life you lived? Does that sit well with you? If not, what will you do to change that?
Jesse Jackson once said, “Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.”
For most of our young Black males, the only role models they have and idolize are rappers and athletes. While a lot of these entertainers and athletes have been positive role models, many of them have used their popularity in a negative way.
Our young Black males need to learn that these are not their only options to be successful in this world. They need to believe that they can and will become whatever they desire. The first step in showing them this is leading by example. Adults have a bigger influence on children than we believe.
“If a man is called to be a steetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well,” said civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. come to mind as two individuals that left a huge legacy behind. Children that were not even born during their careers know of them, listen, and relate to their music today as if they were still alive.
Some believe their legacy was influential and others would argue that it left a negative impact on rap music. Would these men have changed their way of life if they knew that their days on this earth were numbered or were they happy and satisfied with how they were portrayed? One will never know, but it is not too late for the rest of us.
Years from now, when future generations open up their history books to study great African American males, will they have others to study or will it end with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X?
We cannot depend on entertainers and athletes to continue great legacies. Where are the Martins, Malcolms, and Jesses of tomorrow?
Great legacies must continue if we want African American males to be able to have opportunities to flourish in this country. They should be able to learn from previous generations that it is okay to dream big, even big enough to one day run for the President of the United States! Just ask Barack Obama!
There are so many ways that one can leave a legacy to be proud of and memorable to others such as:
-lead by example
-volunteer at schools and/or boys organizations
-be a mentor
-become a “Big Brother” and take a young, Black male under your wing
Together we can all make a difference!
Smith is a writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.