“The oppressor’s power is fading, and you, every day, are becoming better informed, and more numerous.”
–Let Your Motto Be Resistance!, Henry Highland Garnet, 1843.
Black mentorship within a community provides knowledge and wisdom of the verbal stories passed down by our mothers and grandmothers; our fathers and grandfathers.
Through acquiring information about our history, and passing down this information to our Black youth; by allowing them to know their history, we are acting as a form of resistance.
The young Black person can now speak up in these discussions of race, and affirm, for himself and for others, that his natural abilities, as to his political, intellectual and moral status are greater than what you want to project onto him.
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was an organization established in 1960 as a response to the older generation’s efforts to steer the students in the direction they at to go in terms of the flourishing Civil Rights Movement. The statement of purpose for SNCC included the values of:
“Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear; love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hopes ends despair. Peace dominates war; faith reconciles doubt. Mutual regard cancels enmity. Justice for all overcomes injustice. The redemptive community supersedes systems of gross social immorality.”
Here we see life given to a space wherein youth can critically and intelligently analyze their living, schooling, and societal conditions while constructing peaceful, courageous and hopeful ways to amend the injustices that they see in these “systems of gross social immorality.” The role of a mentor was embodied by none other than Ella Baker, the group centered leader of the 1960s, who helped ordinary people develop their leadership. She lived by the motto: “Learn from others, pass on what we learn.”
Known as the Fundi, she served as Education Director and President of the NYC NAACP branch, and was known as a bridge leader in her community. A bridge leader is a community or neighborhood organizer who mediates between top leadership and the vast bulk of followers. People that are doing that unseen work within the community, committed to the bulk of the movement’s emotional work.
By doing this bridge leadership work, Ms. Baker was able to conclude in her speech Bigger Than a Hamburger that “it was further evident that desire for supportive cooperation from adult leaders and the adult community was also tempered by apprehension that adults might try to ‘capture’ the student movement. The students showed willingness to be met on the basis of equality, but were intolerant of anything that smacked of manipulation or domination.“
So, we are invited to go deeper into our meaning and execution of mentorship and ask ourselves:
does it reveal principles encouragement or confinement? Our quality of mentorship is just as valuable as our willingness to provide it.
I am your sister,
and you are my brother.
You are the husband,
you are the news,
you are the father,
you are the truth…
and thus, often a target,
but this is why you
to do what I do.
You are the youth,
and of the movement,
you are the seed.
I am your mentor,
here to adhere to your every need.
Hand in hand,
Back to back,
Wearing our pride,
and a smile wide,
we move together
through this strife —
Even in this trying life.