|African American boy. Cincinnati, Ohio, 1942 or 1943. Photographed by John Vachon.|
no way along the booby-trapped road of his life did anyone ever tell him
that there was some other way to live.
And that another way was open to him, no matter what he thought.
Nobody ever tried to make him think that inferiority was not his destiny.
Nobody ever told him what he was good for or good at,
and all he ever knew was what he couldn't do.
Nobody ever showed him how to use the flow of time, not go against it.
A little work or even a lot probably could have changed all the things he was bad at to things he could do if he wanted to.
Nobody ever told him that success wears a mask, and that is not her true face.
Michael Jordan was not born playing basketball out of his mother's womb.
He had to learn, then he had to work at what he learned, and the rest is his story.
But nobody ever told this boy that work is not something to fear, hate, and reject.
Nobody even tried to make him see that anybody he admired and wanted to be like had to work hard at whatever it was they did that he thought was so hip in the first place.
And nobody ever told him that life could be collared and brought down to eye level,
That success was nothing but a dance and anybody who could handle break dancing, popping and locking could also handle Algebra, Chemistry, and Computers.
Nobody ever pulled him up, not one time was he told that dreams are made to possibly become true.
They may not always be able to feed you, but you can't live without them, and you don't have to.
If I had known him, I would have pulled him aside, and I would have told him to find something to love and master it, learn to love it like you work your mind, like you always want to work your body.
But I didn't know him, so I couldn't say anything to him.
But it was obvious that nobody had every told him that he was worth more than anything he could ever want.
And he never gave himself credit for anything.
So death was not unexpected. It came violently, and he went out unseemly
without ever being told.
Read by Poet Laini Mataka at Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute's 2007 tribute to John Hope Franklin, recipient of Paul Robeson "Here I Stand" Award.