“When you say you’re a s/hero does that mean you’re a role model?” I pondered on his energy, tone and the question for a moment, looked him square in the eyes and replied, “Yes and no.” Some people don’t like it when I respond this way but everything isn’t always black or white. I do think s/heroes are role models but words can be limiting. Why is it negative for public figures to be a role model for children? I may play the role of an educator, sister, friend, or activist but I’m not always the model of perfection. Who is?


For this reason the term role model also has a negative connotation and it has for some time, one might suggest since the year of 1993.  When Charles Barkley teamed up with Nike in a commercial and said “I am NOT a role model…Parents should be role models.”  Yet here’s an even harsher truth, even parents fall sometime and are NOT perfect. It takes a village to raise a child. It’s a well known African proverb that still holds true today. Lately it seems our society has very few s/heroes or people they can look to for model behavior. What do you say to a motherless and or fatherless child? What do you say to that unwanted child born into hell or a ghetto looking to rap stars or the drug dealer on the corner for inspiration? What do we do when educators prove their agenda is to put more poor children on a pipeline to a privatized prison.

I remember someone telling me, “No matter what you do or don’t do someone is following in your footsteps.” The thought freaked me out a little bit. I think it also scared Charles Barkley but the difference is, I welcome the challenge. I wanted to raise my standards so that every child I crossed paths with, their lives would be impacted or changed for the better. I decided I did want to be a role model. I believed it to be a great goal to be s/heroic. So I aspire to live my life as if my ancestors, angels and yes even children are watching. I want to stand up for love, diversity, human rights and more justice and peace in the world. When I do something great or embarrassing I have a call and response or motto with my closest friends. I say “always” and their response  “divine”.

I actually was a motherless child at one time looking for direction with a low self-esteem and imperfections. When you come from a toxic background the result can be negative self-talk and it makes sense to go to the extreme so you may land in the middle. When someone reminded me that I was a child of God and that not only did I have a little devil within, I had a whole lot of light as well. That alone elevated me. That alone made me feel like I could choose to be divine, kind, and humane, more often than not. This does not mean I don’t battle with vices but my standards are indeed higher than most.  I seek to please the divine or that angel I was told who can be found sitting on your shoulder from time to time.

Bill Cosby and Darren Wilson were both on trial this week on social media and both are heroes to some people. Others think they need to be prosecuted. Neither of them are perfect. Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were still considered children or young men when they were murdered and therefore became symbols of a history of lynchings, brutality and oppression. Yet they too were not perfect role models for the nation. Any time there’s a scandal it usually involves someone being put on a high wall or pedestal, be it a child, priest/politician or police officer and they are having a great fall. But I grew up hearing “United we stand and divided we fall.” If we unite on anything can it be on the fact that we all can do better. We can excel higher than this and we don’t need perfect leaders or the next messiah. We need to start with the person in the mirror. Remind you of a Michael Jackson song it should. Even he was tried in public and accused of being more devil than divine. I for one will focus on the good in you and hope we as a country will be able to boast that we are #1 on something besides mass incarceration and gun violence again?



What I know for sure is this nation will indeed fail if we keep focusing on our divisions. It’s inevitable that we will all fall time and time again on a personal level and lucky for most of us in private. May we never stop rising and never stop wanting to be S/heroic in this life?  America needs more people who are willing to be role models, change agents and yes  s/heroes today. Whether we like it or not someone is still following in our footsteps.  May we keep rising? Because right now I’m feeling pretty low. I guess I have to put on a cape and dancing shoes. That’s my advice to you whenever you feel content with fear and depression. I’ll continue to focus on making life better for someone else, maybe a motherless child. At least than I can return to s/hero status and I’ll leave you with the infamous words from a kid, who happens to be a popular black president.