Sparking the Genius: The 2013 Carter G. Woodson Lecture
January 20, 2014
On The Road to Becoming the Person that You Were Born to Be!
At the front of my new book, “Sparking the Genius: The 2013 Carter G. Woodson Lecture,” I include a poem for my children to spark their genius where I encourage them to “Commit themselves to becoming the people that they were always meant to be.” This idea, of using words to spark their genius, was taught to me by my father after he read Carter G. Woodson’s book, “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” Woodson argues that,
“The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worth while, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples. The Negro thus educated is a hopeless liability of the race.” [emphasis added]
My dad said that his job as a father consisted of more than just bying shoes and clothes; but, that he was charged with a lifelong mission to spark my genius and teach me how to spark the genius of everyone around me. In 2013, when I was first asked to deliver the Woodson Lecture at the 2013 ASALH Convention, my goal was to write something that could be used to help to spark the genius of every young person who was struggling with trying to understand who they are and why they are here. To that end, I wrote the Lecture and worked to have it published as a book. It is my small contribution to add to the arsenal of weapons that we need in order to save every young person in our community in an effort to save our community. It is a lofty goal but I believe that if everyone contributes something to the arsenal then our bag of tricks, weapons, tools will never be empty.
And, if you combine this arsenal with our desire to save, rescue, and transform the young people around us then we will be able to (in the words of my father) “spark their genius, set them on fire, and set them loose into the world.” Finally, I believe that there is a place that exists beyond our current reality, beyond our unfulfilled dreams and broken promises, beyond poverty and crime and illiteracy and abuse, a place that exists —only at this moment— in our dreams. A place that we can only get to by sparking genius, shifting gears, and changing the current narrative. The Woodson Lecture is designed to be used as a road map to guide us along the way.