When I was 2 or 3 one of my favorite toys was a record player.
It was small and pink, and my mother taught me how to operate it independently.
I would sit at that thing for hours. I had books to read that came with records that played the stories that were in the books. It would read the words as I looked along in the book. When it was time to turn the page, the record would sound off this beautiful, magical tone to let the reader know the page should turn. I would turn the page and the next set of words would be there and the person on the record would continue saying the words on the page.
I don't know how, but I picked up on it. As I continued to sit for hours, the words began to make sense. I read the same books over and over. Soon, I started to memorize the words of each story, then I began to know the words outside of the story and then I began to recognize the words in places that were not in storybooks. I could read, and it was amazing to me.
My mom was impressed, or at least she put on an excellent act. She told me how smart I was and encouraged my reading. She never questioned if I could read. As a matter of fact, when I wasn't reading, when I was merely listening to the stories and turning the page with the tone, she told me I was reading and I believed her. I was three years old telling people I could read.
My world almost came crashing down around me when I started kindergarten. I can't remember if it was the first day, week or month but I remember telling my teacher I could read. She looked at me and laughed. She told me that I wasn't that bright and that I was wrong, I couldn't read, then she sent me back to my seat.
I could have been crushed, BUT (I feel like the chorus from "I had a praying grandmother" should go here) the person that mattered, my Momma, told me I was smart, she told me I could read, and I believed her. The fact that I was 4 years old was irrelevant. I didn't know that 4-year-olds couldn't read: my Momma believed I could read and I believed her. I didn't know that teachers were supposed to know everything cause my Momma believed in me and I believed her. I did not know this teacher's words were supposed to destroy my little spirit because my Momma believed in me and I believed her. And so, I went back to my seat thinking "Wow, that lady is really stupid" grabbed a book and read it.
That experience could have ruined me for life, but it didn't because the circular faith that existed in my relationship with my mother. I don't think my mother EVER doubted my ability to read, even when I was just flipping pages.
At 41 years old, I believe, with my whole heart area, that she believed I could read. Because she believed in me and I believed her, which made me believe in me and because of that I did what she believed I could do: I read books at 3 years old because of circular faith.
We must create this same circular relationship with our community. We must believe so it, the community, can believe and do.
It is crazy how that works but it works. Faith is not just believing in what you can't see, but it is believing enough to do the work to make the invisible and unimaginable, visible and tangible.
Today I ask you to have a renewed faith in God, in us, in our people ,and in our communities.
A faith so strong that it drives you to action, an action so bold that it will make the community you see in your head both visible and tangible.
On this last day of Kwanzaa, I want to have a renewed faith in God and us!
What will you do this year to show your faith in the community?
Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!