If you are able to read this you’re …

A few days ago, I was on Twitter when I stumbled across the above tweet by DeRay Mckesson. It made me think about my family’s history. Both of my grandmothers could read and write. However, my paternal grandfather was illiterate and my maternal grandfather had to leave school before the eighth grade. I am in my early twenties, and I am a third-generation reader on my mother’s side and a second generation reader on my father’s side.

A few of my all-time favorite books.

A few of my all-time favorite books.

Early on, my parents stressed reading to my sister and me by encouraging us to “read” books to them, reading to us and having weekly Bible studies. As a toddler, I would “read’ to my parents as most children do by going by the pictures in children books. In turn, they would read them back to me. On Wednesdays as a family unit, we would have Bible study. Reading was something that I saw my parents doing and something that was stressed to me growing up. As an adult, I cannot fathom what my life would be like without books, newspapers, blogs etc.. I spend most if not all of my free time reading, for fun, to learn and to understand the world around me. Reading is a part of how I identify myself. While I aim to become a better writer, not being able to express myself in written format would be a major struggle for me as well. It would limit how I viewed the world around me.

This tweet also reminded me of my favorite poem, The Negro Mother by Langston Hughes:

……Three hundred years in the deepest South;

But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth.

God put a dream like steel in my soul.

Now, through my children, I’m reaching the goal.

Now, through my children, young and free,

I realize the blessings denied to me.

I couldn’t read then. I couldn’t Write.

I had nothing, back there in the night[1]

It amazes me that “the night” Hughes references through The Negro Mother only goes back to the very recent past for my family. In the current climate, it can seem as though very little progress is being made. The same issues that my parents dealt with as young adults, currently concern my peers. Despite the bleakness, I cannot help but be thankful when I consider how little access my grandparents and in some case my parents had to resources. The ability to read and write is a privilege. A privilege that can open doors to better jobs and opportunities. Please don’t take it for granted.

So, to answer my statement: if you are able to read this you’re Privileged.

[1] Langston Hughes, “The Negro Mother” in Selected Poems of Langton Hughes (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 288.

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