Yesterday I heard Harry Belafonte speak about he and his daughter living with Dyslexia, and following his speech I watched the coolest thing happen. He was being ushered out of the building to go to his next event, and upon seeing me there with my two sons Myles 11 and Malcolm 10 he stopped, pulled them to the side and had a 15 minute conversation with them. Some of it was about my son’s Dyslexia, but much of it was just elder to young person engagement. The boys had heard of him, but didn’t know the significance of the encounter from a historical perspective. But they got it. They got it because they didn’t need to know his resume to feel his spirit. They responded to this old dude who seems really cool and was willing to stop and talk to us, unprompted.
But there is more. Yesterday on the way up to the conference, me and the boys watched Jay Z’s Picasso Baby HBO special. While watching it the boy were interested in who are all these people partying with Jay Z, and while the boys know a little about art, they were introduced to new artists and more important, pop cultures embrace of fine arts (which is not new, but definitely not what our kids see in the main stream). Ok Jeff…….Whats the point.
Here it is. Within 24 hours, my boys were separately and equally inspired by two black men who have been somewhat beefing; not about if to give back, but how and also how to talk to and about each other. This inter-generational duo could be appreciating each other for what they do vs. being in a public debate. But don’t we see this all over the place.
Inter-generational disconnect is not new or specific to the black community. However, our inter-generational strife cripples us in ways other communities are not affected. Whether it is the lack of honor for elders in our families or the inability to embrace young, proven leadership in our organizations, politics and even churches. We have not embraced the word that said “he called the young because they were strong and the old because they know the way”.
This is bigger than Jay and Mr. B, but there is a lesson. Elders, please understand that you do know the way. Be patient with those you see potential in; pull us to the side and talk with us. Protect us from old people who are haters even while you give us tough love through accountability. Young soldiers…be willing to listen. Know the difference between the elders and the old people and embrace and respect the former. Wisdom doesn’t beat strength, it perfects it. Family we need each other now more than ever. Elders, you should have a team of young people you feed. Young people….you should have a team of elders you seek wisdom from. Fight each other and watch our destiny float way. Roll together and watch us win.