I had the opportunity to address the students and high school guests at Cypress College for Black History Month this afternoon. It is very important to get the message to them that their education is about the most important aspect of their young lives. I spoke to them about my own experiences as a high school student in New York in the ’60s. I was involved in a program that sought to teach the kids of Harlem how to make it a better place. It was called the Harlem Youth Action Project, or Haryou-Act. The program consisted of various workshops in different areas. Music, dance, drama, photography, community organizing, art and journalism were all covered in the workshops. I was accepted into the journalism workshop under the mentorship of Mr. Al Calloway, who challenged us to produce a weekly journal about the Harlem community.
My experiences that summer changed my life in such an important way. Learning about what Harlem meant to the black community and how the Harlem Renaissance affected America gave me an ability to understand what I wanted to do with my life. Since then I have had a purpose and focus for my energy. I have published six books. Four of them were history books that tell part of the story of the black experience in America. The names of the books are “Black Profiles in Courage,” “Brothers in Arms,” “A Season on the Reservation” and “On the Shoulders of Giants.” I hope these books continue to educate those who have an interest in black history.
The young people at Cypress responded with excellent questions and were able to give me a good feeling about the potential of the next generation. I was impressed how interested the students seemed because one student approached me afterwards to tell me how she usually falls asleep during sessions like this.