We-First Generation

By Todd A. Smith

            The loss of a grandparent is always a tough pill to swallow, but even more so for those in the Black community. 

For many of us, our grandparents lived in an era where their dreams were cut short early in life for various reasons.

            For some, those dreams were cut short by bigotry and racism.  For others, they were cut short for financial reasons as a result of that same bigotry and racism. 

            Despite the grim reality that they faced, however, that generation never lost faith in God and never stopped believing that things would be different for their children and grandchildren.

            That generation was not necessarily formally educated but had a wisdom that many of the most-educated and most-influential people of today seem to lack. 

They had a vision that reached beyond today and they saw the long-term and short-term benefits of living the way God intended for us to live.  It is high-time that this generation begins emulating their selfless dedication to future generations of our community.

            That faith and determination kept our community together, but it seems that the more we benefit from their sacrifice, the more we forget where we come from.

            Now that we have that six-figure job, we turn our nose at the uneducated matriarch or patriarch who taught us everything we know about life. 

            Now that we are living in the big house on the lake, we do not see the purpose of spending Sunday mornings in the house of God.

            Recently, I lost my last living grandparent and although she was blessed with 101 years on Earth it is still difficult to let her go. 

I remember spending summers in Louisiana with both of my grandmothers and marveling at the stories they told and lessons that they taught. 

Although neither one of them graduated from high school, they seemed to be much better teachers than I had at the schoolhouse.

            They taught me the value of hard work.  They taught me how to show respect and demand respect from others.  They taught me how to live a righteous life, not just by preaching it but by living it.

            Every morning I spent in Abbeville, La. as a child, my maternal grandmother would be the first one awake reading her Bible and drinking her coffee.  She didn’t tell me that a Christian should constantly study the Word, she just lived that fact.

            When I would visit my paternal grandmother in Kentwood, La., she would not simply show me what hard work was about; she would be in the fields working.  She would even force me to join her when I thought I was on vacation.

            My grandfathers died three years before I was born, but the stories I heard about them showed me the same attributes present in my grandmothers. 

            My paternal grandfather spent his entire life working in the fields of Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana not because that was all he was capable of doing, but because that was all society would allow a Black man to be at that time.

            Likewise, my maternal grandfather was forced to work as a laborer because he was not given the opportunity to attend school in the South, being born in 1902. 

My mother will not like me admitting this, but my grandfather was illiterate, but what God did through him is simply a blessing.

            My maternal grandfather would not recognize his name if it were flown on a banner from the Goodyear blimp, but he produced a daughter (my mother) who would become a reading teacher and a school librarian.  And he would produce a grandson that runs a successful magazine. 

He did not live long enough to see the flower that is his family bloom into its beauty but he was most definitely the seed that God planted that would become Regal Magazine.

That generation made decisions that would benefit future generations, but our generation is more concerned with the financial blessings we receive in this short life, not creating a legacy that will live forever.  We need to rid ourselves of the me-first attitude and begin thinking of “we,” even the “we” who do not exist yet.           

The loss of a grandparent is always hard.  Now that I have lost all of my grandparents, I realize I have lost much more.  I have lost an entire era and an entire generation. 

            Although I have again experienced the loss of a grandparent, I have not lost the values and morals that they instilled in me and my parents. 

Furthermore, I have not lost my dream of taking this magazine even further because losing that dream would be losing everything they prayed and persevered for and I will never let their prayers go in vain.

Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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