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Ben Watson: Black History Month – family and faith continue to inspire, sustain African Americans

The home is the world’s oldest and most important institution

In the human experience, the family is the first form of government, health care, community and early education an individual will encounter.  

This basic social building block is not a recent product of the Western mind nor is it an insignificant concept to be casually discarded. On the contrary it is mankind’s oldest institution, established at the beginning of time and charged with the essential task or raising progeny with the love and discipline needed to responsibly contribute to the betterment of society.  

From creation through the millennia this unit of man, woman and child would always be the holistic way that social capital, moral order and ingenuity would be passed to the next generation. It remains the most impactful mechanism by which language, faith and self-concept are imparted to the young and demonstrated by the old.  

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This truth is not up for debate; nor shall it submit to recurring trends that exalt the contrary.   

The home is the world’s oldest and most important institution. Civilization’s other two great institution’s, the church and the government, find their roots in the nurturing influence and subsequent trajectory of the inhabitants of the home. Without strong families raising the confident and capable leaders of tomorrow, a nation will not only suffer internally, but it will also become increasingly vulnerable to outside threats.  

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Collectively we have a vested interest in protecting and promoting the importance of family, from the heights of domestic policy to the daily interactions of social routine. The current state of the American family is a precarious one. Like a wrecking ball to a watchtower, unfaithfulness, divorce, abuse, abortion and addiction erode the strength of the family in each of their uniquely unforgiving ways. 

Throughout February, like many families around the nation, my family has been intentional in honoring and remembering the people, places and periods of Black American history that have charted a people’s journey from then until now.  

American descendants of slavery have always served as America’s mirror. In us, America sees her prejudice and her prosperity, her evil and her evolution, her guilt and her glory. There are two absolutes we cannot escape when considering this history: the power of faith and the pride of family. 

This legacy of faith and family is the inheritance I am actively instilling in the children God has placed in our care for this season.

For many Black families, faith buoyed their hope of freedom in the face of the lash and the auction block. It ordered their steps of escape through the perilous swamps of the southland and guided their justice marches on the hot pavement of our nation’s urban centers.  

This faith produced an unrivaled perseverance that has driven a people that were emancipated penniless to eventually grasp pieces of an American dream that was not crafted for them, becoming the physicians, entrepreneurs and civic leaders that their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents saw only in their wildest dreams.   

But even as we celebrate that progress, the coinciding pain looms ominously. Over the last 50 years improvements in wages, education and health for Black families can certainly be calculated, yet Black workers still make only 82.5 cents on every dollar earned by White workers, are 2.5 times as likely to be in poverty, and their families have 10 times less net worth as White Americans.  

On issues like homeownership, unemployment and incarceration, matters have gotten substantially worse, and these disparities and the policies that created them have erected  hurdles that must be recognized, researched and redressed.  

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Ironically, discriminatory practices impact the entire economy, not just the targeted few.  For many Black Americans this paradox is not new. The greatest chance for survival and accomplishment still depend upon making responsible decisions to control what is in one’s power to do so while relentlessly challenging the status quo, exposing injustice and claiming the equity denied because of the dignity inherent.  

Through war, natural disaster and moral relativism families have weathered countless storms throughout America’s history. However, Black families have endured unprecedented assaults, while continuing to forge the rich tradition of collective responsibility in child rearing and community cohesiveness that have been the backbone of great achievement. This is the essence of the Black family.  

This legacy of faith and family is the inheritance I am actively instilling in the children God has placed in our care for this season. In pride of story and knowledge of this intangible blood equity, these seven arrows will eventually spring forth carrying the torch of both the renowned and the nameless whose shoulders they stand on.  

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From flawed beginnings, providence saw fit to ingrain in this great nation the ideals that, when joined with liberty-determined individuals and movements, could quickly bring about the full realization of the unalienable rights every person is owed.  

That story is still being written. But that story could only happen in here.  

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