in the natural order of things, there is conflict between the younger generation and the older. with babies, at some point they begin to understand that they are separate from thier mothers; that there is a world that is "me" and a world that is "not me". this is the process of the baby becoming an individual.
it is the same with the teenager. they go through a sort of rebellion to their parents and the world they grew up in. while growing up they accepted the parents world-view and as they develop, the begin to individualize. this is cataclysmic. thier hormones are raging, thier brains are developing and they are coming to terms with their own world view.
this is normal.
in my teenager years, i began to read. in doing so i encountered so many ideas that were alien to anything in my experience. i read books about religion that were critical of my own. i read books about other religions that made me doubt my own.
i read writers essays on current events (of their time) that i didn't even know had happened (from my time). i also saw the shortage of books related to me, specifically as black and as a black female.
although the writers themselves, were long since departed from the earth, i was dealing with their thoughts in the present time. and it caused a revolution in my mind. in a sense, this was like time travel - in the 90's, i encountered Woodson, DuBois, Garvey, Booker T., Diop, etc.
that made me look at my culture in the present from that past perspective and i asked, what happened to the black leaders? where did all of these educators/intellectuals/writers go? what was going on? did we drop the ball?
i was like the teenager who begins to see a different world view than what i had been given. it was cataclysmic.
it gave me a feeling of disrespect for the older generation of black people (after the civil rights movement). it felt as if they had stopped being activist and started being conformist. it felt like they had stopped going to the picket line & marching..and had started just going to work. i remember looking at my grandparents and wondering what had they done to further our struggle. (my grandfather still thought of black people as "coloreds"). i was resentful that they had not purposefully given me anything to foster racial pride, cultural affirmation..i felt that they didn't give me anything to go on. just sent me out into the world.
it would take years before i would lose that sense of disrespect for that generation.
as an adult, there were two items that i came across that sort of slapped me in the face.
one was alice walker's Everyday Use (from In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women. in the story, there are two daughters, dee & maggie. dee lives in the city, she's college educated and african-centric (with a muslim boyfriend, african dress and the popular african-centric phraseology of that time) and has since changed her name and generally looks down on the more traditional black folks from her home town. maggie, stayed in the communtiy, did not get an education and is basically just one of the regular ole "folks". she's going to marry a local farmer. dee comes home to take some relics from the family to use them for show..like museum pieces. at issue, are the quilts made by their grandmother. the mother had promised maggie the quilts as a wedding gift. maggie appreciates the quilts..knows the history of them and wants them in her new home. dee wants to hang the quilts, like art. dee says that maggie just wants to put the quilts to everday use and that the sister and mother do not understand their heritage. the story is narrated by the mother. it shows dee as shunning her culture for the more idealistic african centered culture. the story asks the question, how should you honor your heritage? should you put it to everday use or view it from a distance...set it up for show as something you no longer associate with?
the next is the movie/musical sarafina. the movie takes place in south africa and is about the students of soweto during the soweto riots & apartheid. in the movie, we see the students rebelling against their oppression and their oppressors. we learn of the men, who leave thier homes to fight the system. we see students being beaten and killed by thier oppressors. sarafina, the main character, goes to visit her mother who works as a domestic for a white family in a very nice neighborhood in contrast to the shanty town where they live. everything is clean and orderly. it's nice. and in the conversation sarafina looks at her mother with disgust because her mother doesn't understand why the children are fighting and burning the schools & causing trouble. her mother says that revolution does not put food on the table. she tells her mother "you've been a servent for too long momma". at the end of the movie, the students are rounded up, they are taken to prision, they are beaten & tortured and some are killed. a bruised and dirty sarafina is on the train going to her mother after she is released..during the ride, she looks at some of the women and the beautiful landscape and she walks to her mother, who is there with open arms..waiting..and she walks into her mothers arms. she realizes that while the men are off fighting, the mothers are there, working..the mothers were left to deal with life..the only way they knew how..to deal with life...sarafina realizes that while her mother wasn't a "revolutionary" in the tradional sense..women like her mother kept them going...she tells her mother "you make me strong momma"
i always cry at that part of the movie. every single time.
after the teenage years..after you settle into adulthood. where do all of the ideas go? where is all of the fight?
in highschool, in my own mind i was a revolutionary. since that time, i joined the military, i go to work everyday and i take care of my family. i try to work my ideas into the way i raise my children. i try to mold my reality as much as possible so that it reconciles with they way things should be..in my mind. i try to put my ideas to everday use...at the same time i deal with life the only way i know how...i deal with life.