The Bible says no one can tame the tongue. I did learn that I could choose the right words for my tongue that will give me and others life.
When a black child wants to play with another child, your skin color should not matter. However, at one time in African-American history, some folks made it a problem. Why?
I was not even 10 when I was confronted with the skin color problem. I was at a county fair with my parents. I started watching a little white girl run up to a rope that was separating the crowd for protection from the entertainment and began jerking on it. She looked like she was having fun. She looked my way and smiled. When she did it a few more times, I ran up to the rope and did the same thing. We laughed and then started running together. We started moving toward each other and slowly our hands touched each other. She pulled her hand away, rubbed her hand real fast as if she was trying to rub something off her hand. She looked at me, said the "N" word and ran to her parents.
I had heard the word before but did not know it was for me because it was a bad word that you did not say. I went back to my mom, fell in her arms and cried. She kept asking me what was wrong. When I told her what the girl called me, she said "Don't worry, you're going to be alright. As I grew up and as an adult, I would hear my mother's voice saying those words, "Don't worry you're going to be alright".
Everyone told me I should be a teacher because education is very important and no one can take that away from you. I became a teacher, a counselor, a recruiter, and now a community admissions counselor. I grew up wanting to be educated and wanted to educate others so they could learn the right words.
I learned of influential African-American women's contributions of words made throughout history:
Sojourner Truth (former slave, and abolitionist) said, "Dat man ober dar say dat woman needs to be lifted ober ditches, and to have de best place every whar.. ar'n't I a woman?" She also said, "It is the mind that makes the body."
Ida B. Wells (journalist, lecturer, civil rights leader) said. "We must do something and we must do it now. We must educate the white people out of their 250 years of slave history."
Mary McLeod Bethune (school education founder and presidential adviser) said, "The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its womanhood."
Madame C. J. Walker (entrepreneur and first black millionaire) said, "I had to make my own living and my own opportunity .. Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come; you have to get up and make them."
Michelle Obama (First African-American first lady and a lawyer) said, "You know, every time somebody told me, "No, you can't do that," I pushed past their doubts and I took my seat at the table."
Susan Taylor (Editor of Essence magazine) said, "We don't have an eternity to realize our dreams, only the time we are here."
Wilma Rudolph (three gold medals track Olympian) said, "I knew that whatever I set my mind to do, I could do."
Dr. Condoleezza Rice (the First African-American woman secretary of state) said, "I think people who believe in a creator can never take themselves too seriously."
Oprah Winfrey (TV star, actress, producer, and communications entrepreneur) said, "I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge."
Belenda Cornelius is recruitment & admissions specialist, at Pikes Peak Community College. The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of PPCC.