As I am getting to know my new community, I want my new community to get to know a bit more about me as well. In America there are a number of negative statistics that involve young black men and by all accounts I should fall into them.
I was raised by a working, single mother in a very urban area. Growing up my biological father wasn’t in my life and my first step-father was often incarcerated and battled with sobriety, which was something that mother hid from me very well. In fact she didn’t tell me about his drug problems until I was well into my 20s.
By all accounts I should be another black male statistic. However, all the number crunchers in the world seemed to by all accounts underestimate the will, the strength, and the extraordinary determination that a mother can exhibit in dire situations. My mother helped me defeat the odds.
At home we studied flashcards and read books together. On weekends we went to different library branches around the city. These trips served two purposes. One it kept me busy and away from the influence of the streets as a kid and two it allowed me too immerse myself into different pockets of cultures across the city.
For example, the Northeast branch of the Kansas City Library was in a mostly Hispanic section of town. The Plaza Branch was located in a very affluent and primarily Caucasian area. Yet, the more I visited these branches, the more I felt comfortable being around people who didn’t look like me or have the same background.
These trips as a kid helped me to become the champion of diversity that I see myself as today. I honestly feel comfortable in any situation with any group of people.
My mother also stayed on me about my grades. Anything less than a B was a disappointment to her and grounds for punishment. I actually didn’t get my first C until the sixth grade out of the fear of the consequences.
My mom also stayed very active in my social life. She knew all of my friends and their parents on a first- and last-name basis. She asked me every day for a rundown on the events that took place in my life that day and always made time just to have our own special talks.
As a kid I thought that my mom was almost too overbearing, but as a man I realize that everything she did for me then was for the greater good. People always say that a woman can’t raise a man, well I beg to differ. My mom did and I think that she did a wonderful job.
Any single mothers that are reading this I want you to know that you can do it. It will take a lot of hard work and determination, but you can do it. Put your children first and you too can defy the statistics that say otherwise.
These days things are a bit different for me than in those early days. My biological father and I established a connection my senior year of high school and we actually have a great relationship now. My first step-father is out of jail and drug free and to this day I have never been in jail or arrested.
The biggest offenses on my records are speeding tickets and an in-school-suspension from high school. She and I defied all obstacles and I came out a better person because of it.
Two years ago this month, my mother passed away from cancer at 45. Her memory serves as my inspiration. I live everyday cherishing our time together and I still learn from the lessons that she passed down to me. Her legacy is forever cemented through me, and by living my dreams I am also living out hers.
Staff Writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org via email.