Both of my schools are in the news for two different reasons. It’s certainly bittersweet and a contradiction of the two roads of life.
The University of Alabama has embarked on a great, historical landmark with the election of the first African-American Student Government Association President in 40 years. Way to go Elliot Spillers! I know Elliot personally and admire him for so many reasons. One of which is the fact that he is vested in the undeniable process of investing in the lives of others AND purposely surrounding himself with people who can help shape, mold, groom and grow him to the greatness that obviously is within. He gets it because he allows others to give it so he can give it.
On the other side of that proverbial coin, Birmingham’s Ramsay High School made unfortunate headlines after four students were arrested for a mid-day house break-in. For decades, Ramsay has been the pinnacle of academia in the Birmingham area. Known for bringing the best and brightest from neighborhoods far and near to the beautiful campus nestled near Red Mountain, like many Birmingham City Schools, the school I love and hold dear to this day has been a great launching pad for thousands of students and me.
The initial outcry after the arrests mostly heard from the Ramsay graduates and supporters I follow was that of shock, anger, embarrassment and disbelief that our legacy could be threatened by the careless actions of some who do not understand the nature of who we have long-sense prided ourselves on being. The comments from some of the people who have time to spew racism, ignorance and hate on posts like al.com are nothing short of venom-come-to-life. I digress…Whether the actions of those four students who had bright futures ahead is what is expected of Ramsay (or any school’s) students or not, clearly something socially and morally is missing that these and many children need.
In the midst of prepping for my Wednesday night Empire ritual I started thinking. I started reflecting back on my high school and college days and some of the tomfoolery my friends and I found ourselves in. I made a mistake or two or ten in high school and college that I’m not proud of, but thankfully lived through, with no other purpose than to make sure someone else doesn’t do the same. None of my friends or people I thought were friends broke into a home to my knowledge, but to be completely honest and transparent, many of us (yes, I said us as I am certainly included) did things that could have made the top of the headlines or blown up social media had it existed way back then. Gasp! I prefer sipping tea over spilling it, so I won’t tell the bees-wax of anyone other than me, but I wonder what tragic, unfortunate, “wrong place at the wrong time” things could have happened to me when my friends and I skipped school, or went to a neighborhood with purple and gold donning, high school fraternity boys we had no business knowing then a mini-tornado broke out. I wonder what would have happened that time we piled into a Ford Escort with the friend of our friend named Duchess and drove all the way to Tuskegee in the middle of the week to go to a party where the floor literally fell in and the driver fell asleep en route back to Tuscaloosa. I wonder. I wonder. I wonder. While I thankfully will never know what bad could have been back then, I do know what to do now. I believe we all have a little bit of what the youth of today need. It’s up to us to pull from our bag of testimonies (even those humbling ones), know what we have to offer, be bold enough to share it, share it (whether we feel it’s effective now or not) and not stop if we really care about those who need us to care about them.
The moral of this story: I’m proud of Elliot Spillers and hope that many more stories of this kind become the norm rather than exception. I believe it will. And yes, I’m disappointed by the Ramsay students not knowing or caring to accept the reality of the consequences of their poor actions and accept personal accountability. But let’s be real, people. We’ve all done things without entertaining the aftermath. Now is a GOOD time to get up off of those life’s lessons, mentor these students, hang out with them, hear their points of view so we can know what to do and spill our beans so we can save some lives. No longer is our real, true story good enough to sit on the shelf like a dusty book no one wants to read. It’s time to pull it down, brush it off, open up those tattered pages, unfold those stories from the beginning to that messy middle and the “thank God I made it” end and be real enough to help someone avoid the paths we overcame only by the grace of God. Our impact can mean the difference in the headlines and their lives. #RollTide #IBleedBlue