Keeping Our Eye on the Prize

Posted on 02/21/24 by Myra Basnight

Local community activist Georgia F. Allen recently helped the AARP Chapter 5119 - Princess Anne in Virginia Beach kick off Black History Month as their guest speaker.

Allen is the first vice president of the Virginia Beach NAACP and its religious affairs chairperson. Her role is to connect the NAACP with faith-based groups in the community. She said she strongly believes that “united we bargain; divided we beg.” She explained that if a large enough community presence supports an initiative, its needs will be heard as requests are made to the local government and up to the state legislature. Otherwise, she warned, a divided community must beg for things that they should be entitled to.

Allen has a unique approach in the way that she looks at Black history. Her eye on the prize is not about the usual entitlements of education and representation. She views the “prize” as the community’s most valuable resource—the youth. She spoke about keeping an eye on the youth and doing what we can to enhance their contributions rather than focusing or looking back at the legacy of African Americans in the past.

This perspective challenges the Black community to be creative in celebrating the contributions that youth and even young children are making to the present and will make in the future and celebrate what she calls “Black excellence.”

Allen shared stories about how youth are making a difference in their communities. One touching story is about a 7-year-old Virginia Beach girl who became engaged in politics by asking if she could attend a General Assembly session in Richmond with her great-grandmother. Allen said this is a wonderful start as the 7-year-old is getting a head start in thinking about issues and how they affect her, even though she is too young to vote.

Allen stressed the importance of teaching children of color their worth and value. Seeing the youth as a prize makes it the community’s responsibility to open the doors of opportunity.

We need to reclaim the days when the family, along with neighbors, schools and churches had a role in raising our children, she said. We should no longer say, “it is not my child.” Each child must have love and support from the community that is investing in their well-being.

The charge that Allen asked the chapter to consider in stimulating community involvement among the youth and young adults includes:

  • Staying ahead of the curve to keep youth involved in the local community. For example, there is a migration among young people from black communities to other areas. To stem the migration, there need to be opportunities for the youth to give back to the community. The investment is not just money, but support and encouragement.
  • Challenge young people so that their contributions have value. This allows youth to be innovative in ways to help where they live and go to school. This means that adults must allow young people to dream big and dream boldly. The African American community must stop putting a lid on creativity and innovation. It should stop telling young people what they can't do, but give them opportunities to be active in the political process, education, and other social reforms.
  • Education is essential. According to Allen, “there is too much information accessibility providing a technical overload.” While youth can check their social media accounts to get information, Allen said young people need to be encouraged to investigate and find facts. This is very important when it comes to their involvement in political decisions.
  • Stress the “big picture” by focusing on long term goals will have “lasting benefits.” Often, short-term accomplishments make the community comfortable in the moment, but the ramifications of decisions do not cover the long-term goals. Youth need to see the community through political involvement to navigate lasting results.

Allen stressed that communities need to focus on all our children with love and support. That will open the way for education to encourage positive community involvement. The young people will have a larger voice that can remove barriers to the success of the African American community for the future.

This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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