Willie Spears

Willie Spears

Win At Home is a series of opinion articles written by author and motivational speaker Willie Spears. Learn more at www.williespears.com.

America is our home. I want to win at home.

In downtown Panama City, Florida, the Bay County Historical Society Museum hosted a book signing for four local authors. The Historical Society has an amazing exhibit honoring my great grandfather, local pioneer Hawk Massalina. This impressive work of art was created by local artist, author, and historian Kenneth Redd. Kenneth and I were joined by local authors Nancy Hudson and Robert Hurst as we held three book signings in three days at three different locations in Bay County.

My favorite part of book signings is the conversations with the people. I met people from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and several locals I had never met. The most exciting encounter happen during the second of the three-book signing at the historical museum.

Like a cool breeze in walks this pint-size sixth-grader from Surfside Middle School. Jemma and her mother, Rebecca, were on a mission to learn more about Hawk Massalina. Jemma had chosen Hawk Massalina as her Black History Month project. After searching the internet, she felt she needed more information to do well on her assignment. When she told me her purpose for coming to the book signing, I was overjoyed. I found myself neglecting other potential conversations as they waited in the on-deck circle on the edge of our conversation.

I had a newfound energy and passion for revealing everything I had learned about my famous great grandfather. The most overwhelming aspect of this exchange was the reality we live in revealed through the pulse of our nation. Our country’s racial divide is as noticeable as the apparent split between Alabama and Auburn fans or Florida and Florida State fans.

A few days a week, I visit the post office to mail merchandise to customers who order from my website. Two weeks ago, a mail worker and I had trouble getting on the same page with my order. An African American or Black woman felt the need to get involved and voice her unsolicited opinion.

When she stepped down from the proverbial soapbox and exited the post office, a Caucasian or White woman felt the need to give her unsolicited opinion on what was transpiring. She came to the aide of the postal worker who looked like her.

The whole situation did not sit well with me. It was a manifestation of our current climate in America. It literally made me sick.

When I returned to my vehicle, the Black woman was waiting outside to talk to me about the situation, which she felt was racially motivated. I told her that I did not have an issue with what took place, so neither should she.

Fast forward to the book signing, and you see a White mother bringing her White middle schooler to meet a Black author who wrote about the first Black family to settle in the county where they live.

The more remarkable reality comes from knowing this preteen chose to write about a local black man for Black History Month. Why not write about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Fredrick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Barak Obama, Kamala Harris, Thurgood Marshall, Nelson Mandela, Jessie Owens, Muhammad Ali, or Shirley Chisolm? She chose Hawk Massalina, and by doing so, she made me so proud.

I gave Jemma a Black History Month t-shirt featuring Hawk’s picture. She not only wore it but had her mother take her to the church Hawk help establish and took pictures in her new shirt. In the words of Sophia Petrillo, picture this:

A white person wearing a shirt that says Black History. Would a black person wear a shirt that says White History?

A mother intentionally educating her daughter on local history that happens to be Black History.

A sixth-grade girl who attends a middle school with less than ten percent black faculty, staff, and students choosing a local black man as the focus of her Black History project.

A school and a teacher assigning a Black History project.

This article is not about race but family. We are all on the same team in the same family and of the same race; the human race. What type of person do you think Jemma will grow up to become? Will she judge people based on how they look? Will she feel uncomfortable around people who are different? Will she only appreciate her own culture, or will she strive to learn and appreciate other cultures?

Jemma’s mother, Rebecca, is the real MVP. If we all are intentional about teaching our children the value of all humans, the division we see now will disappear with this next generation. This younger generation does not have the judgmental ways of us old folks. They like who they like and dislike whomever they please, but it’s not based on sexual preference, race, political party, or socio-economic status.

I want to be like Jemma when I grown up.

America is our home. I want to win at home.

Three ways to Win At Home:

1. Talk to your family about your stance on race.

2. Model appropriate behavior.

3. Be intentional.

I don’t know about you, but I want to Win At Home.

I am praying for you and your family.

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