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"History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time." Anonymous
OUR THINKING WAS SIMILAR until I discovered that what you and I had experienced in life began before we came into existence. One of the greatest enemies of the present is the ability not to understand the historical foundation that is the structure of our lives. I have always been astounded that many teenagers, as well as adults, believe that certain aspects of history have nothing to do with them because they were not born during that period or century. Many teenagers often feel disconnected with history and we have not done anything to help them understand or to bridge the gap between the past, present and future. The youth across the country make statements such as; "I was not born back then," "that stuff has nothing to do with me," or "what's done in the past, should stay in the past."
These statements of myth have undoubtedly led to an entire generation of individuals that are searching to find themselves, but never will, until they truly understand some of the foundational principles of the past. I have come to the realization that to bring about change in the 21st century, the quote that I am going to share with you must be embedded in our hearts. The quote is unpretentious but extremely powerful, and because of the many vain sayings that we have heard for years and years we will lose the value of this one truth.
What is this one truth you might ask? This is the truth that I plan to reveal within the pages of this book, "the past holds the key to the present, and the present holds access to the future." One might ask what purpose this quote serves as it pertains to my life. I encourage you to continue reading because it will make sense to you when I reveal the real truth behind the words "All this time I thought."
I grew up in Eastern Arkansas in a small town called Marianna. Marianna is located between the cities of Helena and Forrest City, Arkansas. These three towns had a rivalry that I never understood because each town had its own challenges, but struggled in different ways. Now that is another book for another time. These three towns as well as many other surrounding towns have become known as the Delta region. Many of the towns in the delta experienced low socioeconomic status, "extreme poverty" levels, "high unemployment" rates, inadequate educational facilities, low levels of student and parental involvement and a weakened mentality that has plagued and continues to plague the city I call home.
As a child, I had the luxury to grow up in the rural part of the city; or to keep it real, I lived in the country. For those that grew up in a city, the country can be described as not being close to a store, gas station, candy lady, friend or anything else for that matter. The only landmark within a couple of blocks from my house was a cemetery. If we wanted anything from the store, we had to drive at least 10 miles to get there. To make matters worse, I was the youngest of 22 children, yes that is true. I can hear you say: your mother had a lot of children. You are correct. She had a lot of children, but not all 22 were her biological children.
I grew up in a blended family, which means there were two large families that combined to create one. The family had always been considered as the foundational basis of which communities were framed. Families' taking care of each other was the center of everything. Yes, something has tragically gone wrong with the family structure. When you begin to unfold the unopened letter in Chapter 2, you will begin to understand some of what has happened with the family structure.
My loving mother bore 12 children by her first husband, and my devoted father had 9 children by his first wife. To your surprise, I am the only child they had together. I always tell the joke that I completed the football team. In football, there are 11 offensive players and 11 defensive players, which make 22. I hope you get the joke, and if you did not, well at least I tried to make you laugh.
When my 21 siblings found out that my mother was pregnant, my oldest sister Keathie told her the only thing she needed to bring back to the house was a cat. Needless to say, nine months later she did not return home with a cat, but she brought home a college graduate, motivational speaker, teacher, counselor, youth minister, father, friend, mentor and now author. YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE! There is a reason for your life just as there is a reason for my creation.
As the youngest child, I did not get the experience or enjoyment of growing up with all of my siblings, only one. My sister Ellen was seven years older than I was, so by the time she graduated from high school I was ten years old. I was OK with being the only child in the house because that meant more stuff for me and less stuff to share. Yeah, you get the picture.
WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW WON'T HURT YOU
During my teenage years, I loved spending time with elderly people because they lived up town (you get the joke right). Seriously, I was always fascinated and amazed with the stories of how they struggled during the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. I yearned to learn some of their struggles. I understood that my life would become better as a result of learning about their struggles. The more I listened to them talk about certain issues; the more I began to notice a similarity in one statement that I had heard over and over and over again. The statement that I had heard them reflect over and over again was, "what you don't know won't hurt you." Please understand now is not the time to close this book. From this point onward, the words that I reveal will probably change what you have seen and have heard for many years to come. These words will undoubtedly give you clarity of how speaking idle words into your life can destroy you and everything that surrounds you.
As I would listen to the elderly people, as well as adults, I immediately began to realize that this was a cultural expression that possessed an immense deal of power. The words were being said so often that many people never took the time to analyze what they were saying. As I moved into adulthood, I began to hear women having conversations with their female friends, and they would say "girl what he don't know won't hurt him." I would think to myself, does she not believe that even though he does not know it still hurts him. I would hear men talking to their male friends; and they would say, "Bruh what she don't know won't hurt her." The more I thought about these words, the more I realized how much damage was taking effect in the lives of women and men. The more I considered the statement; I began to realize that the only danger in not knowing something is the possibility of repeating it.
From the time I was 10 years to the age of 31, I had heard "What you don't know won't hurt you." It took 21 years before the pieces of the puzzle finally came together. All these years, I had been repeating to myself idle statements because I grew up hearing them. In reality, I did not understand how dangerous these words were. I had always thought that the saying "What you don't know won't hurt you," meant that it was OK for someone to cause harm to you as long as you were not aware that harm was taking effect.
The reality behind those words has caused an epidemic among the African American females in our nation, according to the Black in America special aired on CNN. What is the epidemic you might ask? The Human Immunodeficiency Virus also known as HIV, is among the highest in the nation with African American women. How is it possible that black women have attained the highest rate in the nation, well, could it be that it started with the words "what you don't know won't hurt you?" After all, it is just a black thing, right? If you are thinking right now as you read this book, then my intention has already been accomplished.
It was not until I realized that for over 30 years I, you, we had been feeding ourselves some of the most destructive words known to mankind. Up to this point, I thought it was OK to continue to say what grandmamma said. I had not taken the time to assess the damage that took charge in our communities. I saw the direction that our young males were taking. I saw the rise in teenage pregnancy. I saw the rise in the decline of fathers in the home. I saw the increase in abortions among teenagers. I saw the increase in single mothers becoming head of household. I never saw the potential of idle sayings that had crippled an entire generation of youth, young adults and adults.
I thought it was normal for all of these circumstances to affect our communities the way they were. I thought it was normal for us not to be able to articulate a certain way because that would be considered to be speaking like a white person. I thought it was normal for light-skinned blacks to hate dark skinned blacks. I thought it was normal for you not to receive my help because you just did not want it. The truth behind all of what was just shared is all revealed in a single book. I now realize that over 298 years ago something had been written that most of us never took the time to investigate. Why had we not taken the time to investigate? Well, maybe it was because you said "that stuff has nothing to do with me because I wasn't born back then." I think you get the picture, if not just continue to read and I am sure you will understand.
I told you there were two sayings that I had to uncover in this chapter, which would help us realize that "Life and Death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat the fruit thereof"-Proverbs 18:21. If you are like me, then you are probably still thinking about the first saying, but I want you to adjust your attention because the first expression was mediocre compared to the one I am about to explain.
While growing up as a child, when certain things happened in our house, I would hear the words "what goes on in this house, stays in this house." As a little boy, I knew that when those words were spoken, that meant you better not talk to anybody about what happened in your house. As I got older, I began to realize there were other people that were saying the same words my parents said to me. Once again, I thought that the saying "what goes in this house, stays in this house," meant that whatever took place inside the four walls of the house, had to stay inside the walls of the house.
After hearing people, including myself make this statement for years, I came to the realization that the power lie in speaking idle words. Destruction was taking place as a result of speaking idle words without having a true understanding of what they meant. The power of those ten words has affected more people that we could ever imagine. Those words would be passed down from generation to generation to generation. Many of us assume that we cannot change our destined path in life. The reality is that we can change the course of our lives, but we need to understand the historical foundation on which all things derived.
The words you are about to read may hurt, because you will revisit some issues that maybe you thought you had escaped mentally. If truth be told, you have to revisit the past, in an effort to keep you from experiencing it again. The excuses arise when people say the past hurts too much to revisit, but if you never revisit something, you can never emerge from it. I can assure you that the words in this book will change your life forever. You must be willing to get rid of the idle sayings that have created this confusion in your life.
Just imagine with me for a moment, or better yet go back to the home where you grew up. You do not have to get in your car and physically drive there, because the reality is that as you are reading this book, your mind is probably already there. While growing up, all you may have experienced in your house was confusion, people arguing, people fighting, people drinking and people using drugs. Drug trafficking had been allowed all night long. You were constantly cursed out every day. You were repeatedly molested by a family member that you trusted. Your father would say that he would call you back but never did. Someone always told you that they could not stand you because you were like your father. People would say you are always going to be poor. People would say you cannot go to college because I did not go. You were told that you are dumb and stupid. Every day you were told to get out of your house and go somewhere else.
Then one day someone comes along and tells you those ten dreadful words, "what goes on in this house, stays in this house." For many years, I thought that the "house" was the physical place that a person lived. Two years ago, I finally understood just how wrong I had been for all these years. During my adulthood, I often wondered why I could not avoid certain things that had taken place in my house. After all, I had not lived at the house I grew up in for over 14 years.
One day I woke up; and it felt as if the scales had fallen off my eyes. The words had become a part of my spirit; and I had not even realized it. The saying "what goes on in this house, stays in this house," had been misconstrued by a lot of individuals. I want you to know that the term "house" never meant the home where you grew up, but the word "house" literally represents a state of mind.
I was like many of you who are reading this book. I did not know that the house was a state of mind and not a physical place. After all, when you hear the words "what goes on this house, stays in the house"; it sounds as if they were referring to the physical house, right? Yeah, they were referring to the house, but that is only because that is what grandma and grandpa heard from their parents and what we heard from our parents.
The days of hearing idle words and passing them on to your generation have to cease. We can no longer afford to say things without knowing the power that they possess. I shared with you earlier that "the past holds the key to the present and the present holds access to the future." Ladies and gentlemen you have to realize that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Ladies and gentleman, you have to understand that words live and sometimes they never die because of the momentum they possess.
For years and years, we have said statements such as the two explained. We never expected any person to give an explanation of what or why we were saying what we were saying. When these words became apparent to me, I realized that it was time for the unopened letter to be revealed to millions of teenagers and adults across America. The reality behind the writing of this book; is the sincere desire to keep this generation from repeating some of the same idle statements that have destroyed the lives' of our forefather's.
I believe that you can only see and hear something for so long before it becomes a part of your spirit. The timing of this book is so crucial; especially to the youth in America. The time has come for this generation to realize that the only way to eliminate ignorance is to empower yourself with the truth. That is why this chapter was so vital because it helps you to understand the remaining chapters of the book. Without understanding the historical aspects of the damage created through idle speaking, then there is no possible way to build upon what has been lost. It is time for the youth of America to regain some principles, values, morals and a keen sense of whom you are and what you were created to be.
The time has come for young ladies to realize that you do not have to wear revealing clothes to be accepted by a young man. The time has come for young men to know that you can be successful without ever touching a basketball court or a football field. The time has come for parents to understand that speaking the language of your children is so essential to saving them in the 21st century. The time has come for educators to understand that communication is the only way to save the children that you teach day in and day out. The time has come for educators to understand that communication is the only way to save the children that you teach day in and day out. The time has come for everyone to understand the danger of speaking idle words. The time has arrived for you to open the letter and find out the truth for yourself.
Excerpted from Sista Let Me Tell Ya, Bruh if You Only Knew by Marquis Cooper Copyright © 2010 by Marquis Cooper. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted January 13, 2011