On this approaching Black History Month, I will be highlighting prominent Blacks on whose shoulders we stand. Recently, we lost one of our changemakers, Sir Sidney Poitier. Fifteen years ago, I read and listened to his book, “The Measure of a Man,” and I traveled with his book like an extension to my Bible and lost it in my many travels. Unfortunately, time can sometimes change our outlook because memory tends to fade, and as such, our attitude acquiesces to those faded memories in our interpretation, which is flawed at best. Therefore, in recent days, I decided to listen to “The Measure of a Man” again, which profoundly impacted me more than it did before. Some experiences he described resonated because I’ve had similar. Sir Poiter, lessons shared on race are an eye-popping indictment on ignorance—a malignancy of the soul, which needs a Savior. I listened to the honest narratives on different phases of his life’s experiences as a man of color. It forces me to reflect on mine as an immigrant woman whose dark melanin has inflicted an ample share of ignorance that took me from idiotic laughter, from disbelief to defiance as a shield to ward off those effects of such ignorance.
In the early nineties, I was fresh off my Island of origin and had no idea of racism. It wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. I had enough sense to identify the difference in skin shades, but that was all it was. I recalled living with Italians, with whom I was part of their extended family engaged in family activities, and there was uncle Joe, aunt Mary, and so on. I embraced them as such and loved them. Then, one day I went to one of the larger Malls in Morris Town, New Jersey, with Terry, the Italian woman who had invited me into their home. While we were at the Mall, she asked me to wait in a particular area because she wanted to go to a specific store.
In my ignorance, I asked, “will you be able to find me when you are done?’ Her response was laughter. She laughed so hard she had trouble standing upright. Knowing I hadn’t said something funny, her response confused me. Eventually, she answered, “Yes, I’ll find you!” It took me several years to understand that moment and many others like that. I was the only woman of color in that area of the Mall on that day; not seeing myself different from others, I thought that question was a valid one. The lesson I gained over the years from that and others, which Mr. Poitier highlighted in his book, “The Measure of a Man,” is that the formative years of one’s life create the foundation for self-worth and set the stage for how you see yourself. And how you see yourself is more important than how others see you. I am grateful for having such a background because it sure up my overall outlook on life. In a nutshell, those early years are vital for buffering life’s boomerangs. Marjorie Delores
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