Many of you know that I’ve been helping teach a class at Harold Washington College here in Chicago. It’s been a wild ride, but one that I certainly would not give up.
I have this student (we’ll call him John) that has one of the most remarkable personalities of anyone I’ve ever met.
John comes from a rough past. He’s already been deemed an alcoholic by the age of 18. He’s been thrown in jail multiple times. He’s been homeless. In fact, this semester he had to choose having housing or attending college and he chose the latter, which is incredibly eye-opening to me.
John, luckily, has straightened up his life a lot. He’s taken a rough past and turned it into a vision. Rather than drinking and gang-bangin’ (as he calls it), he spends his time mentoring young kids about the unpleasantness of gang life and it’s effects.
Today, John and I had a great conversation about change and the civil rights movement. He doesn’t believe white people hold him down. He believes his own people do. Rather than seeking political change, John thinks we should change first in our own hearts. Then, we should use that change to inspire and motivate other individuals. Once they have their lives straight, they’ll do the same with others and-so-on.
It’s truly a beautiful concept to me, that a once gang-banger believes that he is essential in causing change in both the black community and the community-at-large.
I walked away from the conversation with a great sense of belief in humanity again. We need more individuals like John who will stop at nothing when it comes to changing the way individuals live.
After a tutoring session, I walked by the front doors of the college and saw John. He was walking hand-in-hand with an elderly blind man, guiding him into the doors of the college and to the man’s desired destination. It was truly an amazing moment to witness- an 18 year-old, black, thug-looking male walking an 60+ year-old, white, blind man where he needs.
John is the light of which this world needs more.
He might not pass my class, but if you ask me he definitely succeeded in the truest form of education. The education of empowerment.