Today our youth are blinded by materialism and fast results. They want it now and they want it big. Perhaps the media has fooled our young into believing that success is measured by your ‘bling’ and your things, and that the only great role models are those who received record deals or sports scholarships. Neither should be the case.
Not every person will become the next multi million dollar recording sensation or the next basketball phenomenon, so we must keep in mind that success is not defined so narrow. Our definition of success needs to evolve and expand to facilitate the rest of us; the majority. Many will go to college, contribute to the workforce, or the professional world, but we never hear their stories, nor shed illumination on their success. Their process and products deserve the same recognition and applause, so perhaps we as a society need help re-shifting our focus to ALL possibilities.
Youth today need “real” role models – ones in which they can model after and where their dreams can become realities. Let’s face it. Not everyone will make it to the NBA or be the next rap superstar, but the professional arena is an attainable and realistic destination. This destination is plagued with so many men and women who have “made it” and are superstars in their own right. So, why are they not the focus for our youth?
I recently had the opportunity to attend the International African Inventors Museum coordinated by Francis Jeffers. I was astounded to see the contributions so many African American men and women have and continue to make in the science and technology fields. I found inventions from radiation detectors, refrigerators, the traffic light, and everything in between. These contributions were so great and eye opening. It instantly dawned on me to ask, “Why have I never heard of these fabulous things before?”
While at the International African Inventors Museum I observed a third grade class from a local school visit the exhibit. One child in particular caught my attention. While others were laughing and not engaged in the static displays, this young boy was reading intently from one display to the next. He eventually made his way to my corner and I asked him,” Do you like the displays?” He responded by telling me,” Yes I think they are interesting and I want to be an engineer, but I can’t.” I proceeded to ask him why, and his response was simple.” I don’t know anyone who is an engineer and no one in my family is.”
Accomplishments and contributions like those of Black male and female engineers and scientists should be made known to our youth and I believe it starts at the core; our education system. We need to re-examine our current educational curriculum and make some adjustments. Why have so many voices and faces been forgotten? Why not in a science class can we mention these inventors and discuss how their contributions have made our lives much easier. Can you imagine our lives without traffic lights? By providing these examples, we can spark interest in our youth.
The young boy I met that day at the International African Inventors Museum was in need of a “real” role model, and he was not alone. Instead of building basketball courts, build labs or buy more equipment for public school departments. Instead of asking an NBA player to come and speak to our kids, we need to ask the local Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer and Accountant to come in. Knowledge is power, and with that power access is granted, and in turn success.