What My Grandmother Said About Going Back to School

by Dr. Molefi Kete Asante

Published 5/7/2003

(Black Girl Magazine, December, 2002)

The other day I happened upon a beautiful green book that had been the property of my grandmother. It was tattered, some pages torn, and the cover nearly ripped off by age and use. I picked up the book and opened the pages tenderly, carefully, as one would take care to lift something very fragile.

Written in the margins of the book were words that must have been penned or penciled, it was pencil, by my grandmother. They were words of advice to my father who was about to return to school after a long summer of working in the cotton fields of South Georgia, our home region.

She said to him what I say to you, "be positive every day and live each moment with all the joy that you possess." I do not know what my father made of this admonition, but he must have adhered to it since he turned out a very positive, spiritual man.

She said to him, "Remember that each day is historic although you can only see it for what it is at the present time." No greater truth has ever been told than this prescription for success. If you look at each day as a contribution to history then you realize that every day you are making history. You are in it. Many years from now others will look back toward you and say, "She was a history-maker."

She told my father that he should always "remember the ancestors who worked hard to make a place for us to exist as free people." The names of the ancestors roll off of my tongue even today and I am inspired by Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and George Washington Carver. Perhaps no people have ever had as many great individuals living in one era as African Americans.

I put the book in a special cabinet, closed the door to it, and meditated upon the meaning of each of those admonitions that my grandmother had given to my father.

When you return to school this year remember to remember these three admonitions: be positive every day, live each day as a day in history, and respect your ancestors. You will succeed in school beyond anyone's expectations. Whatever your parents seek for you as a student, you will receive it, do it, and even more because you will be a centered person. Nothing can stop the truly devoted young girl from succeeding as a model student if she follows the prescriptions. You have got to do it every day, however.

My faith in the young is unstoppable. I have every reason to believe that you will follow the advice that I am giving as I tried to follow the advice of my elders when I was in school. If you do follow, you will create an aura (look up aura) around you that will cause other people to want to be like you. Have a great year in school and remember that the books you use today may be found by someone else years from now and they will be inspired by your margin notes!

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