You guys. A few months back I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for the Tribe Conference (WHICH, if you are a creative/entrepreneur/writer/etc, you absolutely need to get yourself to this. I cannot speak highly enough. Check it out here).
I went the event to share on stage to the hundreds of entrepreneurs, eager to make money as creatives. I met a number of world changers. I also made a few really good friends.
One of those friends was Odell, who I spent the bulk of the weekend with. Odell is one of those pals you feel really lucky to have, but also like you had to bribe him to be your friend. You know? Odell is a dad by adoption and biology; he is black and someone I chat with about raising a child of color.
Listen to his words. Take heed. His is a voice we must pay attention to, and it is full of grace and love and truth.
I am so privileged to share with you his words, his heart...and him. Here is Odell.
It’s Black History Month and I’m really excited!
But not just because I’m a Black man, with a Black wife, and 3 black kids.
I’m excited because I’m alive, it’s my birthday month, and I have a thriving career as a professional speaker. I’m excited because the GOD I serve gives me new grace and mercy every single day.
I guess I’m just an excited person in general. But this post isn’t about my natural level of excitement, it’s about something totally different and very important.
Over the last 3 years two very specific things have happened to me that have caused me to change how I look at Black History Month and how I identify as a black man in general:
- I adopted 2 children.
- The President has changed. (Don’t worry this isn’t a political post at all.)
First, my wife and I adopted a beautiful little girl and boy to go along with our biological daughter.
This changed my perspective in a couple of ways. Though that process we relearned what we learned when we had our biological daughter: what’s best for your child is the priority and your needs and wants are secondary. This is big.
In addition to that, the process of adoption introduced me to privilege. My wife and I have multiple degrees and live pretty well. It’s our norm, but our adoptive daughter though she was only 3 when we took care of her didn’t have the same support.
After hearing the story of our new daughter coming from a home of abuse we realized that our daughter had a certain level of privilege and subsequently acted very different from our biological daughter.
Lastly, during the process of being a foster to adopt parent my wife and I would get questions from our fellow adoptive parents during trainings who happened to be white. In North Carolina the majority of adults that foster and adopt children are white whereas a lot of the children that are available to take into care are black.
This creates a lot of new mixed race families. So we would get simple questions like: “How do I do the girls’ hair?”
But we would also get questions like: “How do I teach my kids how to be black?” or “I want to make sure my kids know who they are, how do I do that?”
The next big thing that happened over the last 3 years, as many of us are aware in 2016 President Trump took office. Which meant that President Obama was no longer the president. All I will say about that change is this: Whoever the POTUS is represents the American people not just to the world, but to themselves. As the old adage goes, what you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.
That being said Black History Month and all of the festivities often make white people feel uncomfortable or uncertain about how to conduct themselves. So before I share how you can celebrate and teach Black culture to your kids or anyone if you’re not black I need you to do one thing:
Just the fact that you’re interested in learning is HUGE. And in 2018 race is a big deal. It can be sensitive so be careful about the language you use but don’t be fearful.
Here’s a simple strategy my friends family, and I use to celebrate our culture: Continual empowering education.
My wife and I homeschool our kids and we teach them continually how incredible people that look like them are. We use the Bible as a reference as well because Egypt is often brought up in the Old Testament and we show them images of people that live in Egypt now to show them that there were brown people represented in the Bible.
We continually empower them with imagery, events, and facts beyond Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, and the other handful of Black heroes taught in public school.
The resources aren’t scarce. A Quick Google and YouTube searches would suffice.
Lastly, we tell our kids something that I know for a fact speaking to white families with black children that they don’t convey: Life will be different and unfair for you because of race.
Oftentimes you may feel led to coddle your kids and protect them from the atrocities of US History such as slavery, Jim Crow, systemic oppression, unfair policing and other things.
Don’t shield them from the knowledge of these atrocities, educate them, and empower them.
My Dad used to say to me: “As a black man you have to be twice as good and be willing to accept half the credit than your white contemporaries to make the same progress.”
But he raised me to treat this reality more as a competition and less than a tragedy. Train your kids to be excellent. Teach them to be the best human being they can be. They’ll be the generation that closes our differences and makes greater changes.
It’ll be uncomfortable, awkward, and it will take work, but it will be worth it.
Odell A. Bizzell II is an inspirational storyteller, author, and entrepreneur. Through his blog and podcast he shares inspirational stories from his life and others that give people practical and life changing advice.
For more information about Odell visit him HERE.