As a young girl in elementary school I saw the Black Panthers march down Coal Street in Wilkinsburg. I’ll never forget how I felt that day. I was in awe, and felt secured and protected. I wasn’t sure what those men dressed in black military attire were all about, but I could feel their presence and I knew they represented a powerful force of black men ready to battle on behalf their community.

Teach our young black men to take the lead, don’t let them fall by the wayside. (Really, someone at the daycare was ready for naptime after his snack while the other was fully energized.) (Photo courtesy Tamara Charles)

I often wonder: What happened that made black men flip from protecting to destroying through selling drugs in our communities? I know it’s all about money, but the chances of these men making it big in that lifestyle are a gazillion to one. I believe the Black Panthers understood the wiles of evil and that is what they stood against.

So now, some 40 years later I wonder once again: How can we, as a race, be moving in both ends of the spectrum at the exact same time? How can we have a black president leading the country, while at the same time our multitude moves in slumber and self-destruction? How do we battle unemployment, school drop-outs and reinstate family values? How do we turn our mothers back to instilling values, rather than letting MTV, BET and other media control their children’s minds? How do we turn our young black males into men, who provide, protect and support their community? How do we transform this current destruction to fulfill the Bible’s word that "no weapon formed against Me shall prosper" (where “me” equals our race)?

Many of us may have forgotten or have not been taught that it is the voice of the past that allows us to stand where we, as a people, are today. Most people my age remember the workings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Harriett Tubman, Andrew Young and others, but we are really failing at passing this history on to our young children (not just our own, but as many as can be taught).

Have you ever attended an event where they selected "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (our national black anthem) as part of the program? When you joined in singing (if you did) were you able to sing it with pride knowing the tune, or do you mumble it as if you’d never heard it before, unsure of how the song flowed?

I’ve been to many such events, and it hurts my heart when this song is sung by our people who are not really sure what the song means or as if it doesn’t matter. I guess I feel this way because I attended a primarily white elementary school. They never taught us anything about black history.

Then we moved into a primarily black school, Baxter Elementary.  I was emotionally moved at seeing so many children and teachers that looked just like me. Then I went to music class where I heard and learned "Lift Every Voice and Sing." The teacher, whose name I cannot recall, explained the song, its meaning and the story being told. I absorbed every word of it and even to this day I sing it with such great pride.

I am teaching the first verse of the song to our daycare children. They may not understand it all, but at least they are hearing and singing it. I let them pound on the table real fast when we get to the part "Let it resound loud as the rolling seas." I let them take slow hits on the table when we get to the part "Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us." I engage them in the song so they will know it, the tune and power of each part, and mainly because I want them to have fun learning the song.

Who is driving our children and where are they going? Teach them to lead the way with the right tools and full of knowledge (Photo courtesy Tamara Charles).

Yes. We are teaching black history. We are using paper chains (the kind kids make to hang on Christmas Trees) to explain slavery and bondage, in comparison to freedom. We are teaching them about George Washington Carver, President Barack Obama, Harriet Tubman, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and many others to help them understand from whence we, as a people, came and where are.

Why do we, as a daycare, teach this? So the children will know or have some idea that their tomorrow is not confined to what they see day-to-day. So they will know that if they push past the day-to-day they will be able to explore a world beyond their imagination or sight. To instill a pride in them so they can say and feel, "I’m Black and I’m Proud" not just during the month of February, or in celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, but every day.

Who will be on the frontline for our communities tomorrow? These children will be there. They are our future.

We have to teach them and show them. We have to pass on to them our knowledge, our pride, our history. We need to mentor them now. We need to reach out to their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. We ALL need to teach them to "Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud, I’m educated, respected, loved, valued and I’m here for YOU!”

Tammy Charles
Owner & Director
In God We Trust … Our Little Ones Daycare
4055 Perrysville Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15214
412-301-0506