Submitted by: Mary Robinson:
The Black playwright, August Wilson, in his play Joe Turner come and gone, introduces a character who is constantly reminding the people that they must write their own song—not accept the song written by someone else…if they are to ever be their own person. It was his way of saying that you must define who you are and not let some-one else do it for you. That is just too much power to give away.
Excerpt with Ernie Hudson and Roger Robinson Video
Throughout the history of black people in the United States, however,…from the days of slavery to the present time, there have been people who have tried to write the song for all black people. Through laws of segregation, excepted practices, limited educational opportunities, it has been a real struggle to write our own song. It has been especially difficult for black males in America…and…yet many through self-determination, perseverance, and strength of character have overcome the many insurmountable obstacles of life in America. So as we start our black history series, I would like to recognize one of these black males.
As I looked at this contemporary young man, I was reminded of the two slogans which President Obama used for his two elections…the first ‘Yes we can’ and for the second ‘Forward’. It is no accident that Barak selected these particular phrases, they have been our battle cry all our lives. We understand the need to continue to say Yes I can and I will move forward.
Excerpt with Chad L. Coleman and Roger Robinson Video
So did the gentleman I have selected to spotlight today. He was born in 1951 in Detroit, Mich. His mother, Sonya, had dropped out of school in the third grade. At age 13, she married a 28 year old minister. Two sons were born, Curtis and Ben. When Curtis was 10 and Ben 8, the parents were divorced. The mother was left to raise the boys alone. She had no education, barely able to read, she worked as a domestic at two and sometimes three jobs at a time to provide for her boys. The boys had a difficult time in school, and in fifth grade, Ben was at the bottom of his class. His classmates called him ‘dummy’ and he developed a violent temper. When Ben’s mother saw his failing grades, she determined to turn her sons’ lives around. The mother took charge of their education, even though she had not gone beyond the third grade. She sharply limited their television watching and required them to read two library books a week and give her written reports. Reports she could barely read. Ben states in his writing about the experience, that within a few weeks his performance in fifth grade improved. Once he realized that he really wasn’t stupid, he went on to excel so that by the time he reached junior high, he had risen from the bottom to the top of his class. He was writing his own song and exemplifying the spirit of Yes I Can. He studied hard and did so well in high school that he won a scholarship to Yale University. He received his degree in 1973.
Ben had always dreamed of becoming a doctor and was very interested in psychiatry. Once in medical school at the University of Michigan, he realized he was good with his hands and set his sight on neurosurgery. After completing medical school, he became the first Black accepted in the prestigious John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. In 1983, he was offered a chief neurosurgical residency in Perth, Australia. He returned to John Hopkins a year later and within a year was promoted to director of pediatric neurosurgery. He became one of the youngest doctors, age 33, in the country to head such a division. He was truly writing his own song.
This man, Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, who was at the bottom of his fifth grade class, the son of a third grade drop-out who insisted that ‘yes he can’ do well in school, is now a renowned surgeon. He is a doctor with many accomplishments…too many for me to enumerate at this time. He is well known for performing the first successful operation to separate seven-month-old co-joined German twins. He is an authority in the field.
Because of his academic problems in school, he spends time motivating young people to fulfill their potential—to write their own song. Dr. Carson is the recipient of many awards and over 50 honorary degrees. In 2008, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
More than anything else, Dr. Carson is an excellent personification of the spirit…Yes I can write my own song. (Gifted Hands)