Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Depends on whether you are drinking or pouring.
by Jeff Kurzon, candidate for Congress in New York’s 7th District
Black History Month is a time to celebrate African-American history, culture, music and the many contributions African Americans have made to our country. Education, reading and writing are ways we can remember the past and know a better future.
There are many references around New York City to African-American History and one of my favorites is literary. I remember when I lived in Harlem it reminded me that no matter our background, race, etc. we are all human and can at times feel alone and invisible. I used to go down and walk by the Ralph Ellison statute in Riverside Park and return there to ponder its meaning.
Last week I celebrated Black History Month at SUNY – York College with the York College Division of Student Development and the Greater Queens Chapter of The Links, Inc. Dr. Bill Cosby and Dr. Frank Savage discussed their latest books with Ms. Cheryl Willis. I recommend to all celebrating Black History Month as a way of learning more about yourself and the rich traditions of African-Americans who have made our city and nation so great. I am grateful to the generous women of The Links, Inc. and York College for putting together such a special event for their students and the public.
At the event I was reminded that being human involves struggle. We are bound together by the history of slavery in our country, the Jim Crow laws and the ongoing struggle for equality. We know this struggle too for women, for people of different sexual orientations and even now for the worsening and gross economic inequality in our country. We’ve seen discrimination against Chinese-Americans, Japanese Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native-Americans and virtually every ethnic and racial group at one time or another. We all only have one life and we all deserve the same level of dignity and the same opportunities. Slavery still exists in the world and we should make every effort to end it and support its victims.
I was also struck by what Dr. Cosby said, “If you have something funny, write it down.” But I do not think it always needs to be funny. If you have something you think may be important, write it down. I’m sure Dr. Cosby would agree. Professor Charles Coleman receiving the Student Development Award gave a similar message, “Read, and if you are a parent, read to your kids – and let them see you reading.”
Dr. Cosby also said “We need to be a nation of people who give.” Giving the gift of literacy may be the best gift possible so every educator is a hero. To read, to write, to share is to be human. Promoting education we increase equality, end ignorance, promote justice and fairness and make ourselves all-around happier.
I may never know what it is like to be Black (e.g. a friend bought me Baratunde’s book, “How to be Black“, maybe as a subtle reference, of what or to what, I am not sure). But I am grateful to Dr. Cosby and all African-Americans, including our President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, who inspire young people of all colors to be better neighbors and members of the community. Go forth young man, read, write and make as much funny as you can!