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Berdine's Corner

What's Your Point of Reference?

by Kenney Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

I can be pretty much a loner at times. Many times I have to make myself go out on a Friday or Saturday night. I have one or two good friends, and many times if they’re free, I'm not and vice versa. I've recently come to realize why I don't like going out that much. The friends that I have are close friends of mine for a reason. We share interest and/or we have a lot in common. Becoming a close friend isn't something that just happens. It's usually over a period of time when two people notice they have similar likes, enjoy each other's company, and wouldn't mind helping each other or receiving help from one another.

A few months ago, I hung out with a co-worker and had a terrible time. We're cool at work but are total opposites elsewhere. I was at a club with him in Atlanta when I realized I was out of my comfort zone. Urban Music has totally gone over my head nowadays. As we sat at the table and had a couple drinks, I really listened to the music. Not only was I not entertained, I was offended. I thought about the history of our people in this country and what it took for us to get here, then I listened to the stupidity of the vulgar lyrics of the latest songs and the pride these idiots around me had in listening to it, dancing to it and getting drunk to it. Then, I looked at my friend as he rapped along to it and hit on every woman that walked by. Next, I looked at the women who also mouthed the words to the songs as they walked around the club and drank as much as the men. I felt like I was in the twilight zone.

As I drove home, I continued to think about the night's events. I remembered a woman I dated for a short period of time that didn't have kids but took care of her 5 and 7 year old nieces. I thought about the time I was in the car with her, and she put on the new Lil Wayne song and the kids sang along in the back. They knew better than to say the curse words but said every word around them. I looked at their auntie as she drove and looked at them through the rear view mirror with so much pride. She, then, looked at me and smiled. I thought she was nuts.

How many children grow up in households where this kind of music is played so much on a regular basis that they know the words by heart? How many of the parents are proud of their kids when they can recite these songs? I can remember one of the first rap records I learned the words to was "It's Like That," by Run DMC. The words went, "Unemployment at a record high/ people coming people going people born to die/ don't ask me because I don't know why/ but it's like that, and that's the way it is... Here's another point in life you should not miss/ do not be a fool who's prejudice/ because we're all written down on the same list/ it's like that, and that's the way it is." Times have surely changed.

My parents raised me and my siblings to be conscious of our race and proud of who we are. What happens to a child that gets none of that? Furthermore, what happens to children who are raised by whomever can take care of them because their mothers are rarely home, and they have no idea who their fathers are? What is their point of reference? Lil Wayne? Nikki Minaj?

What's your point of reference?

My mother used to preach to me to never hang around folk. "Never follow them, let them follow you. Be a trendsetter, not a trend follower!"

If you grew up watching your mother go through one dysfunctional relationship after another, is it possible that you will follow that trend as an adult? We all have to make lifetime decisions that will affect us and future generations. These decisions can include deciding not to listen to some popular music, even if we like it for the sake of the kids' ears or deciding not to date at all, instead of sneaking random dates over every chance there's an opportunity.

I grew up watching both parents working hard to put food on our table and clothes on our backs. We had a record player that I hardly saw my father touch. My mom played The Whispers, Stevie Wonder, and Stephanie Mills. She listened to rap songs in the car with us. But it was never anything shameful. She was an excellent point of reference. She led by example. What is this generation’s point of reference?

You are their point of reference. Make sure it's a good one, one that you will be proud of 20 years from now.

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