I feel like I am missing bits and pieces of very valuable information that connects me to the success and shortcomings of my family. I am a young man that is trying to do the right thing at the end of the day, and it feels like I am in a world full of people who do not feel the same.
We are living in the 21st century, and new morals and values are surfacing. Some of them are good, while some are very detrimental to society. I think my knowledge, gained from personal experience, allows me to see the great generation gap amongst us, and how because of it we are losing the values that we need.
My maternal grandfather, Splojoe LaGrande, was born on Dec. 9, 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas and was raised by his mother. His father was nowhere to be found and with little support from his mother, he raised himself.
He eventually met my Grandma, Willie-May Youman Ziegler, and they were married. In the early 1960s, my grandfather had an altercation with a white man, which led to a warrant being put out for his arrest. But in those days, a Black man’s arrest translated to lynching, and so my grandparents took the earliest train from Little Rock that headed west. They ended up in Oakland.
Oakland became their new home, and they raised four kids. But with the newfound freedom, my grandfather started using of drugs and cheated on my grandmother. Following his father’s footsteps, he left his children to be raised by my grandmother.
And they were forced to raise themselves. When my grandmother passed away in 1982 from a stroke, they were really alone. At the time, my mother, who was the youngest at 14 years old, was affected the most by the absence of her mother and father.
I can only imagine the feeling of being alone at that age. She was being forced from childhood with adult responsibilities, now that she had to support herself. She met my father at Job Corps in West Oakland and married a few years later they married, disregarding the comments from both sides of their families.
I was born in 1993 and my father left the street life and started taking college courses. But as we all know, the streets don’t forget, and the same year my dad was shot 8 times.
Just like my grandfather and my mother and her siblings, again a woman was being left to raise a child without paternal support. She struggled to provide for us. We stayed with friends and even slept in cars when we had to.
Though I never asked, I know my mother was forced to have sexual relations with men at times to ensure we’d be all right.
My mom and I are victims of a generational gap, who no generation ever benefiting from having both a mother and a father. This is very detrimental because one single parent cannot be both genders. A boy learns how to be a man from a man. A girl learns how to be a woman from a woman.
My outlook would be a lot different I had had a trustworthy man in my life offering advice.
My mother says, “A lesson learned the hard way is a lesson learned well.” That means, without the struggles we had to face we would not be the strong people we are today. We do not let our struggles define us, but we are definitely products of our struggle.
I have a daughter, but I am not with the mother of my child. My fiancé has a child, but is not with the father of her child.
But we both role models in their lives and are a complete family. Though we are not the other parents, we want to show our children how important it is to have two parents instead of one.
I will fill my generation gap by teaching my daughters to the best of my ability as a man. Most men in my generation and I the past were absent as role models. My goal is to be present.
As Oba T’Shaka says, “if we do not resolve the generation gap between the old and the young, African American communities for the first time in our history will be left with the unprecedented situation where our young will be able to pass on to future generations whatever they choose.”