By Doni Glover, Publisher
(BALTIMORE – October 29, 2022) – Greatness was Muhammad Ali. I remember when he visited Coppin State back in the mid-90s. What always stood out in my mind was how he stayed to shake every hand and that he had no security with him. Right there on North Avenue, he demonstrated what it truly means to be a champion.
Bea Gaddy was the earthly culmination of greatness, too. One time, she told me about how she gave up her bed so that a person could get some rest. All of the other beds in the house were full. I still ask myself if I could do that. I know I would, especially after she told me that story.
Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – well, like many of you – they will always be my first two heroes – after my parents, of course. Hell, they both took a bullet for us. So, too, did Marion Barry, DC’s Mayor for Life. And no matter what mainstream did to try and assassinate Barry’s character, the beautiful people of DC paid the media no mind. Malcolm warned us about the media and how it is used to try to program our thinking.
Thank God our parents and our teachers taught us critical thinking skills so that we can think for ourselves.
Malcolm said the media is the most powerful entity on earth. He said it could make the innocent look guilty and the guilty look innocent. How right he was! We see it every day on TV. George Floyd was the crescendo as the curtain closed after the murder scene. America tried to downplay it, but the protests were too loud and the world had already seen the tragedy in real time. This is the America we all have inherited and it requires every American to ultimately choose to either emulate greatness or be sucked in by the darkness.
There is no middle ground.
That’s where we are.
We will either choose life, speak life, breathe life – or we will miss the point of our living altogether and perish together. True greatness is not the number of likes we get. It is not the number of followers we have. True greatness, as Harriet Tubman demonstrated, is the ability to sacrifice your own well-being to help others.
How many of us would actually jeopardize our own freedom to help someone else get theirs?
Tubman freed over 70 slaves on the Underground Railroad and over 700 with the help of the Union Army down in South Carolina. One little woman did all that. She served all of those nameless souls when easily she could have gone up to Canada all by her lonesome and laid low.
But that wasn’t her way. Giants sought her out, including Capt. John Brown. Brown’s efforts helped kickstart the Civil War. Brown set in motion a series of events that made this country finally choose freedom or death. Thank God it chose freedom.
So, who best symbolizes greatness to you?
Raymond V. Haysbert, Baltimore’s beloved ‘Dean of Business’, epitomized greatness to me. Despite all of his accomplishments in the field of business, he made it his personal mission to help empower other entrepreneurs. He was among the first to advertise with BMORENews.com twenty years ago and I will never forget it. I recall how he took the time to pull my coattail to important matters. He intently gave instructions and advice freely. All I had to do was listen.
There are some who have not accomplished much at all, but often need a lot of accolades. True greatness has no need for accolades because what’s more important is getting the work done. If the conditions of the people have not been improved, then there is no time for celebrating. It is time to be about our Father’s work. Anything else is subterfuge. So, no! There is no time for banquets celebrating the same ol’ tired cast of characters. There’s no time for taking selfies because there are others who are hungry, unemployed, and homeless in a land as rich as ours.
Ask Cynthia Brooks at the Bea Gaddy Center, as she toils daily to serve the less fortunate. You rarely ever catch her in a pic because she’s too busy serving people. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, that means her life is about to get really hectic. But she does it because her mother’s work inspires her. This US Veteran is spending her days feeding and clothing people and informing them about employment opportunities.
Standing beside her helps one realize quickly that a lot of us are faking the funk. We say we love Baltimore, but we don’t really care. We say we love the people, but the truth is, some of us wouldn’t help Jesus. Yeah, I said it! We’ll pose but we won’t serve. We’ll posture but we won’t protect.
Take Baltimore City Public Schools, for example. In a majority Black city, there is severe dysfunction going on, but we look away. The last big protest I recall was when Dr. Andrey Bundley and Dr. Tyrone Powers were arrested. Since then, we’ve been silent. We’ll show up for the Happy Hour but the protest – uhh, I got something else to do at that time.
And it is sad. We seem to have forgotten all of the lessons that our elders and ancestors taught us. The struggle is never over, unfortunately. Yet, we act like it is. As a result of our disobedience, our children are going over the cliff in record fashion. Prisons are busting at the seams, and sisters are the fastest-growing demographic in the world’s most incarcerating prison industrial complex. And when it comes to Black people, only England is right behind America. The US locks up more people than China, a country with 1.3 billion people. Ya dig?
Too many of our young people are faltering, dropping out of school, and stepping into the streets. Too many of us older people are just plain stingy and too preoccupied to pull them to the side. And we refuse to pass them the ball. So, they have little respect for us because we are failing them and tremendously so. The Maryland State Lottery, for instance, promised money for education; we have two new stadiums but we also have schools without heat and air. Nearly $20 billion has been generated through the Lottery, but what do we have to show for it? Huh? Icicles on our classroom windows?
“To whom much is given, much is required.” That’s what I was raised to follow. “Give more than you take.” That’s what the old folks used to say. “If you want a friend, then be a friend.”
It is as if we have forgotten how we were raised. These seem like old-school values, but they’re not: Don’t lie, don’t steal, and honor your word. These are merely fundamentals of life. Treat people like you want to be treated. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that in life, we get back what we put out there. That’s why the old folks say to be sure to put some sugar on it. In other words, as we measure out justice, put some grace and mercy in there because when justice is measured out to us, we’d want the same thing. These are the values the elders and ancestors instilled in us, but I think we are betraying those ways for a new way.
60, for instance, is really not passing. It means we got a little over half right, and that is simply not good enough. We have relaxed our values and now deliver an inferior educational product too many times. Instead of Black Excellence, we’re chasing mediocrity. Sure some are succeeding, but not enough to counter a burgeoning criminal justice system that takes all prisoners.
It is time for the next generation of leaders to take the helm. As Wes Moore ascends to Governor in historical fashion, we are seeing the future right before our very eyes. As Catalina Byrd, Zanes Cypress, and Dale Terrill stood audaciously at the Mansion House in Druid Hill Park two weeks ago and shared a 21st-century vision for America’s third-largest public park with promises of landmarks that will attract millions of people, rest assured that new leaders are in place.
May they learn from our mistakes, may they welcome our wisdom, and may – more than anything – the good Lord guides their decisions. If they stick with the old school values, they will be fine. If they fall for the chicanery on the wall, we all lose. Here’s to a prayer for tomorrow!