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Straight No Chaser: The Changing of The Guard

Op/Ed By Gloria Winton Al-Sarag

 

gloria newOne thing guaranteed in life is that we don’t get out of this thing alive. After writing a weekly column for the Minority Reporter, I decided a few months ago to hit the “pause” button, and take a much-needed break.

I called it a period of “reflection.” It was not long after the primary that I decided to reflect on what it is we are really doing as a people, by not understanding that, if we want real change, then we need to begin the process at the polls, and to participate in the selection of our political leaders and representatives.

The voter turnout at the primaries was beyond sickening, and I felt every word I have ever written to remind people of the sacrifices our ancestors have made, the reasons they should vote, and every voter registration campaign, and Get Out The Vote activity (GOTV) in our community, had failed miserably.

Somewhere, I think I read the voter turnout across the county was a pitiful 10 percent. And, in the black community, within those districts that have a heavy concentration of black voters, the percentage was even lower, at an appalling five percent.

What is WRONG? Why are we going out of the world backward, seemingly incapable of comprehending, or remembering, the sacrifices people have made to assure us the right to vote?

Whether we choose to recall Susan B. Anthony, Fannie Lou Hamer, or others to use as our motivation to vote, we need to get it together, stop complaining, and to participate in the process that will help us change the guard in our communities.

Some individuals have no doubt failed to realize that, on Super Bowl Sunday, Beyonce gave us a refresher course, which was a stark reminder of the shoulders on which we stand.

There are still far too many apathetic people, who complain constantly.

How does a politician manage to get 3,000 signatures on a petition to secure a place on the ballot, yet garner less than 1,000 folks to come out and vote in the same election?

It’s mind-boggling to me. And, it is usually the ones who’ve failed to vote, or to participate in the process, who become the loud, empty kettles complaining about everything. They don’t realize they have the power to change the guard, but, for whatever reason, they don’t come out and vote.

The changing of the guard doesn’t only take place at Buckingham Palace, or on the political forefront; it also occurs in churches, in businesses, in schools, and in families.

Some changes are automatic, and may occur whether we want them to or not. The changing of the guard can also become more than evident when our family members leave this dimension.

The loss of someone you love is never easy to deal with. No one can tell you how long, or predict how long, a mourning period should last.

And, good and pleasant memories are not things we should ever try to forget.

For some reason, this past holiday season brought home the reminder that life truly is precious, and fleeting. We have collectively not only lost family members, but precious community icons whom we held near and dear to our hearts.

In mentioning the shocking loss of Joe Brown, Hosea Missouri Taylor, and Audrey Smith, I am by no means suggesting there were not others who worked in the trenches as consistently, and constantly, as they did. I just happen to have had knowledge of, and relationships with, the three individuals that I’ve mentioned.

In each case, the changing of the guard has factored in tremendously because, the question becomes, who will take their places in the community? They have all made major contributions to the community; touched lives in good ways, and left big footprints to fill.

I’ve asked myself the same question, as well, now that I have lost the last elder in my family.

My last aunt, Lydia Ann Winston Harden, recently left this dimension at 86 years old. She battled health issues, like most who live as long as she did.

My grandmother, her mother, Maggie Butler Winston, lived to be 94 years old. She was my dad, James Walker Winston’s, only sister.

In addition to the obvious loss of a loved one, her death was more than an indication of the changing of the guard. Her passing has brought closure to the end of an era, and left me as an official ELDER on the Winston side of my family.

I was the first-born grandchild on the Winston’s side. That is a scary thought.

I have two cousins, older than me, on my Mom’s side, and one uncle, Richard Alexander, who lives in North Carolina.

When you know, and recognize, that everyone older than you is now GONE, the circumstance can take on its own identity, and cause you to realize how life has since moved on. Gone forever are the ones who recognized the significance of having family picnics, dinners, and reunions. Gone forever are the elders who made a point of getting together with family, as often as possible.

I do also recognize that being an elder brings with it a certain sense of responsibility.

Today’s families, mine included, can sometimes become so scattered in various times zones, and zip codes, we sometimes forget to communicate outside of events like a funeral, or a wedding.

We all have busy lives, and sometimes forget most family is only a phone call away, or the stamp on an envelope away.

Sometimes, the changing of the guard is not done by choice. Sometimes, it is inherited.

However, my ancestors seemed to plan for the day the guard was going to change, by putting family traditions in place and, at the very least, making sure the family came together.

Thanks for those who called, wrote emails, sent text messages, and smoke signals to say you missed me, and my opinionated self. Thanks for taking the time to say so. I am back in the saddle now, and do have some opinions on other matters that will be forthcoming. Stay tuned; coming soon, to a theater near you.

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