Famed poet Langston Hughes once so eloquently asked, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?” That famous quote was in the back of my mind eight years ago when I had the honor and pleasure of meeting a group of inner city middle schoolers from a college preparatory charter school in inner-city Atlanta. They’d dreamed big – huge actually – when they’d announced to their teachers that they wanted to visit Africa for their eighth grade graduation trip. The staff was working ferociously to help make that dream a reality for these gifted and amazing young people.
It was crazy goal – one that seemed virtually impossible – but in the 13th hour a large donation poured in and it was clear that was once a very long shot was now in reach. I was so touched later when I was invited to chronicle these students’ life-changing journey to Ghana, West Africa. What started off as a far-fetched dream to visit “the Motherland” ended with an amazing journey of self-discovery, self-reflection, growth and bonding. Of course, they faced challenges being far away from home and adapting to a variety of living conditions and new foods during the nearly two-week trip. However, the emotional visits to the river of “the last bath” and the El Mina slave dungeons, along with memorable moments in the kente cloth village, climbing a mountain, the waterfall and navigating a rope bridge suspended high above the treetops in a rainforest made up for any discomfort.
It was such a beautiful experience, I was exasperated when I returned to the States and found little to no interest from media outlets interested in publishing the story I’d planned to write. Instead of giving up or succumbing to disappointment I opted to press on like the KIPP WAYS students had with their dream. I lovingly “harassed” Sylvester Monroe, a highly decorated editor at Ebony magazine at the time, with pleas to publish this story. The critical call would not come for three months and quite inconveniently days before Christmas. I had just under a week to pull it all together. I can honestly say the stress and exhaustion that followed turned out to be well worth it in the end.
Months later the story appeared in the March 2008 edition of Ebony, the first in the publication’s history featuring Barack Obama on the cover. It was an enormous accomplishment and if you know anything about Ebony and Jet, you’ll realize that such an issue will live on in hair salons and barbershops for at least a decade or more. LOL! If you think I was elated, you should have seen the look on those students’ faces when they finally saw themselves and their story featured in a national magazine. If you ask me, that experience was nothing short of divine intervention.