A Letter To Ishmael
You probably don’t remember me. The first time we met it was 2011. We were two of the ten black students at the Southern Christian Training School. Although everyone was taught theology, your major area of study was psychology. You wanted to understand people.
You invited yourself to walk with me to and from classes. If ever you caught me sitting alone, you’d sit with me. I was shy and kept to myself, so you did all the talking. I don’t know if you could tell, but I listened. You were, and I hope that you still are an interesting person.
You thought about things, the way I thought about things, the way I still think about things. You felt that the world needed to be saved. You thought that namely, the African American community needed a leader because we were and we still are lost. You spoke of our strength, our power, our potential to be so much more than rappers and ballplayers, not that there is anything wrong with that.
I didn’t say it then, but I agreed with you. I still agree with you.
Ever since I was sixteen, I’ve had this dream to see our people united. By the time you met me, I’d had one baby and was pregnant with another. At that time, I had traded in my radical jeans for an apron. I ended up leaving school to work full time to take care of the babies I’d had. I didn’t see you again until 2015.
I was sitting in Algebra class at the community college. I sat at the back of the room and listened to the professor call our names from the roster. Then I heard her say your name, “Ishmael.” I looked around and there you were, sitting up front, tall, proud, strong. You answered “present” in your soft, baritone voice. It took all of my self-control not to get up and run to you. I wanted to tell you how much I believed in you, how much I supported you. I made plans to approach you after class.
When the bell rang, you got up and exited the class. I tried to catch up with you, really, I did. But there were so many people in the hall that I lost you. The next time that class was in session, you weren’t there. I heard the professor say something under her breath about your transfer when she accidentally called your name from the roster. I’d lost you for the second time.
Now that a pandemic has come and stayed, now that the deaths of black men and women have once again caught the attention of the world, now that our people have become divided on what we want…I wonder what you are doing, if you are doing anything. I want to tell you that we need you. It is your time to lead.
Lead me, Ishmael. I will follow.
Your Hope for the Future