My parents were born and reared in Birmingham, Alabama; a place of monumental significance during the heyday of the Civil Right’s Era. They escaped Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor, his fire hoses, and his police dogs to re-locate to Philadelphia. Their story was not unlike six million other African-Americans who traveled northward during the Great Migration between 1916 and 1970.
Collectively, we settled largely in the cities where opportunities awaited. Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Detroit, D.C., Los Angeles, Baltimore, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and a list of less populated areas.
Are you still in those very same cities? Those very same neighborhoods? Those very same homes?
I have always been amazed how little some people travel outside their ‘hoods. In a country where travel is unrestricted and opportunities abound, many of us remain tied to the same few square blocks. But, in order to maximize life goals and self-development, one must move beyond one’s own remaining chains, beyond the mental barriers that keep so many of us constrained in our thoughts and deeds. In order to do so, we must first move beyond ourselves, each other, and our neighborhoods. We must break free from our enmeshment and seek that final step toward psychological freedom. Discovering the world is so much bigger than you know and realizing there exists so many things you may not even have an inkling of a thought about, are crucial steps in the progression toward psychological freedom. Breaking the chains of our minds and opening the door to your individual psyche is the key to our final step to freedom.
I have learned much about myself while outside the confines of my ‘Hood. We are all part of a human race. Travel and re-location, even within the United States, will help each of us throw off the smallness of our neighborhoods and the smallness of our interactions with the same people—week in and week out.
We must learn that the world is so much bigger and has so much more to offer than the ‘hood. We must learn to take our places as global citizens, spreading ourselves and our history and culture beyond the confines of The Avenue or MLK Boulevard. We must become world citizens. But we cannot begin that process while engaged in the same things week in and week out. Going to get fish or barbecue every Friday is nice (and tasty), but there is so much more to see (and even to eat). Expand yourself. Start small. Go to Greek Town and have something different to eat—preferably something on fire.
Damn it, throw all caution to the wind. Go see a play or even an opera. Puccini’s Madame Butterfly or Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci will make even the toughest of thugs weep like babies. These activities are not white. Art, culture, travel, and other new experiences belong to everyone. We were kept in slaves pens by race profiteers of yesteryear. Do not let yourself stay penned up in the ‘hood by heeding the words of the race profiteers of today. Soon you will see that the ‘hood is insufficient to meet your needs and those of your family. My suggestion is that you start gathering boxes, funds, and friends with strong backs as soon as possible for your move out of the ‘hood.
And, if you still remain hesitant to move out of the ‘hood, then consider the Great Migration and the courage and examples set by your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents.
Opportunity is out there; waiting on you.
Well, that’s all the time we have for today. We’ll pick up again next week.
BE WELL, AND KEEP STRETCHING!
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Dr. James Davison, Jr. is a licensed psychologist and university professor. He conducts a private practice in Seattle, Washington, and has appeared on several nationally-aired programs including The Phil Donahue Show, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and C-SPAN. Dr. Davison hails from Philadelphia, and is the author of several books – Prisoners Of Our Past and Sweet Release, and the upcoming Paid In Full – related to individuality and personal freedom for African-Americans.