Blog · Educational Equity

Ode to My Son, Christian Hemans, On His College Graduation

Legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy

Black excellence baby, you gon’ let ’em see

Legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy

Black excellency, baby, let ’em see”

Jay-Z, “Legacy”

I’m up early this morning and these lyrics by one of the most profoundly impactful rappers of our time takes on a whole new meaning for me and resonates deeply within my soul. Today is a most important day.  Today is THE day my son Christian Hemans — my legacy — graduates from the renowned Howard University (a HBUC, or Historically Black College or University) with a Bachelor’s degree from the well-respected Cathy Hughes School of Communications.

Christian Hemans. He’s the most instinctively and intrinsically impactful young man that I know. He epitomizes the Black Boy Joy that comes in the morning after many nights of weeping. He’s my birthright knight in shining armor, the brightest young man I know. He’s overcome a great many obstacles with a resolved resiliency. He is the personified hopes and dreams of his ancestors. My first born and only son, born to this then-single Black female on June 7th, my 22nd birthday gift that keeps on giving. Today he is giving me, his family, his community, and himself the gift of being a young, gifted, college- educated Black man. At 21 years-old, he has valiantly yet narrowly escaped death and the school-to-pipeline by being a Black man strong in America. He’s the best and the brightest that this generation has to offer. Ask anyone who knows Christian. From professor to pastor, grandfather to girlfriend, friend to foe — none can deny his magnetic and majestic presence. He is, as his Auntie Shirley calls him, her #princenephew.

“I got, I got, I got, I got—

Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA”

Kendrick Lamar, “DNA”

This is way beyond just my son graduating from college. Christian’s academic accomplishments defy the current trajectory of his peers where college attendance and matriculation are concerned. In addition to his natural talent and hard work, I believe that his graduation from college was heavily influenced by Howard University and the legacy of HBCU’s for Black students. According to “African-Americans  and College By the Numbers,” “HBCUs make up only three percent of the country’s colleges and universities, but enroll 10 percent of all African American students and produce almost 20 percent of all African American graduates.” This is noteworthy because “Black men have the lowest completion rate [of college] at 40 percent.”

The inequitable distribution of sufficient funding and resources between affluent and impoverished school districts that is drawn along lines of color contributes directly to Black and Brown children’s lack of readiness for college-level coursework.

Another huge factor in Christian’s graduation from college as an upwardly mobile young Black man was my commitment to education and my own academic success. “A mother is their child’s first teacher” and “Teach a woman, Teach a nation” are African proverbs that bear witness to current research about this huge educational component. As “Many Ways Mothers’ Education Matters” states, “Children’s educational outcomes—their cognitive skills, grades, and educational attainment—are closely linked to their parents’ level of education.” This observation, well-supported by years of research, will come as a surprise to no one. Having better-educated parents means a higher household income, which translates into children attending better schools. Equity in housing is co-mingled with education, which is why I always lived in neighborhoods with good schools.

Seeing him graduate today makes all those sacrifices worth it. I dedicate this blog post to my son Christian and all the black students who overcame adverse situations to become the proud graduates of the class of 2019.

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