Shackles

As she read the two volume autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, she was reminded of how fortunate she was.  She was a black, educated woman who was able to go to the university of her choice and become what she had always dreamed of.   She and her parents left the West Indies for a better life in America.

 

Her world was so different from Olaudah’s.  He had been kidnapped from his home in the West Indies and taken to Virginia where he was bought by a sea captain, Michael Henry  Pascal, with whom he traveled widely.  Olaudah received some education before he bought his freedom in 1766.  He became an abolitionist, speaking out against the cruelty of British slave owners in Jamaica.

 

Slavery is something she was never going to experience, but she knew what it was like to be treated differently because of the colour of her skin.  She learned that being educated, living in a stylish condo and driving an expensive car didn’t matter to those who didn’t see past her colour.  She still had to deal with being watched or ignored or followed when in certain stores or co-workers looking away as she passed them.

 

Yes, she had her own issues to deal with but they paled in comparison to Olaudah who suffered cruelty and indignity at the hands of those who wanted to keep him and the other slaves in emotional and intellectual shackles.  She was grateful to Olaudah for writing about the horrors of slavery.  It made her more determined to work harder and achieve more.  It was what drove her to pursue her Masters.  Like Olaudah, there were times when she questioned her faith but she has since learned that it is during those tough, challenging times that God has proven that she has the mettle to overcome them.

 

Yes, she had come a long way with God’s help but there was still a long way to go. Little by little she was going to break free from the racist mentalities that would like to keep blacks shackled to the painful past of slavery.

 

“After all, what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn ‘to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God?'” – Olaudah Equiano

 

Cartoon image of woman reading book

 

Sources:  WikipediaBritannica; Daily Kos

 

Academic Streaming

“University isn’t the place for you.  You’re better off taking applied courses.  I can recommend some and where you can go to do them.”

When Carol heard these words, she felt as though her guidance counselor had picked her up and tossed her into the sea, leaving her adrift in the waves of emotions of disbelief and anger.  Why disbelief?  The same thing had happened to her sister and cousin.  Both had been told that they shouldn’t bother to apply to university because they wouldn’t be able to cope. And both had gone to university.  Her sister was doing her Masters in Psychology now and her cousin was a professor of Math.   Anger because the counselor told her this without even bothering to pull up her grades.

Carol was an A average student who wanted to go to university and get a degree in Biology.  When she mentioned her plans to the counselor, instead of encouraging her, she told her that university wasn’t for her.

There was a long silence as she tried to process what was happening.  The guidance counselor was busy writing something on a sheet of paper.  When she was done she slid it over to Carol.  “Here you go,” she said.  Carol glanced down at the paper.  It had a list of applied courses and the places where they were offered.

Carol didn’t say a word.  She put her book, papers and pen in her knapsack and got up. She didn’t take the paper.  “Excuse me,” she said and walked out of the office.

When she went home she told her mother what had happened and her mother said, “Don’t worry, Baby.  I will go to the school tomorrow and get you a new guidance counselor.  She did and Carol’s new counselor gave her a list of the best Biology universities in Canada.  She encouraged her with these words, “Now that you have proven to yourself that you have what it takes to succeed, work hard and see all obstacles as motivators to realizing your dreams.”

Carol is now at Queen’s University and loving every minute of it and she plans to get her PhD.   Academic Streaming is a real problem for students like Carol and many are encouraged to “stray away from realizing their full potential” because of racial bias. Carol knew that she was told that university was not for her simply because she was black.  She wants to be an advocate for students who might experience what she did and encourage them not to give up on their dreams.  She hopes the province is doing something to finally end academic streaming so that black children no longer face “an achievement and opportunity gap” in schools.

 

advising-pair

Source:  CBC; Queen’s University; The Toronto Star

Inspiring Story from Kenya

I read this inspiring story and just had to share it.

A Life of Influence

Elizabeth Kimongo was born into a traditional Maasai family in Kenya. In her culture girls are expected to marry soon after their twelfth birthday. Women have little to say about their lives, but Elizabeth refused to leave school to marry. She had a dream.

While home for vacation before starting high school, Elizabeth learned that her father had arranged for her to marry an older man. With her mother’s blessing, she escaped and returned to her Adventist school.

During high school Elizabeth took her stand for Christ and later was baptized. When she told her mother that she wanted to study at the Adventist university, her mother encouraged her to go.

Elizabeth is majoring in agriculture, a field that will help her teach her people how to preserve their land and provide a better life. She works on campus and receives some scholarship funds to help her pay her school fees. Sometimes she must take a semester off to work full time to earn the money to continue her studies.

Elizabeth’s example has helped her younger sisters stay in school and avoid early marriage. Her father, once angry that his daughter would refuse to marry the man of his choice, now accepts her decision. But he pressures her younger sisters to marry this man. Elizabeth encourages her sister to walk close to God and continue their studies to make a better life.

Elizabeth urges other Maasai girls to study hard and trust in God. “Don’t allow life’s circumstances to steal your life away,” she says. “Satan wants to destroy you. You must trust God and not let Satan have his way.”

Elizabeth is old enough now that her community will not force her to marry. They accept her as an adult woman who can make her own decisions. “I want to teach my people by example how to produce better crops for a better life,” she says. “The village has given me a piece of land that I use to plant crops so that my fellow villagers can see for themselves the success they can have by following my example.”

Elizabeth is grateful for Adventist schools that have prepared her to live a life of influence among her Maasai people. Our mission offerings and Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings help these schools reach young people in all walks of life, including Maasai girls in the heart of eastern Africa. Thank you.

Elizabeth Kimongo will soon complete her studies and return to her village to work for her people and share God’s love among them.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  info@adventistmission.org   website: www.adventistmission.org

It takes great courage to follow Jesus Christ and to stand up for your faith.  At times it costs people their relationships with family, friends, their jobs or even their lives.  For this young Kenyan woman, following Jesus was worth whatever the cost it took to do so.  She knew that God had bigger plans for her life than entering into marriage she didn’t want.  Education was more important and God’s help and her mother’s support, she was able to achieve what she set out to do.  As a result she could now be a blessing to her community and a role model for young girls and women.  God, through Elizabeth, was showing the Maasai people that He can do marvelous things among them and give them a bright future.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Like Elizabeth we too can make a difference in our community and reveal God’s love in the process.  You too can be a beacon of hope.  Don’t let fear, insecurity, opposition, doubt or Satan prevent you from pursuing your dream.  Continue to put your faith and trust in God and watch Him do wondrous things through you.

Writer and Philanthropist

My mother’s favorite novelist is Catherine Cookson.  After I read a few of her books and watched movies based on them I became a fan too.  Her characters seemed so real and no wonder–her books were inspired by her deprived youth in North East deEngland, the setting for her novels.

Catherine’s story is as intriguing as the stories she wrote.  She was the illegitimate child of an alcoholic named Kate Fawcett, she grew up thinking her unmarried mother was her sister, as she was raised by her grandparents, Rose and John McMullen.   She married Tom Cookson, a teacher.  Tragically, she suffered four miscarriages and had a mental breakdown.  It took her ten years to recover.  She also suffered from a rare vascular disease, telangiectasia, which causes bleeding from the nose, fingers and stomach and results in anemia.

Catherine took up writing as a form of therapy to tackle her depression, and joined Hastings Writers’ Group. Her first novel, Kate Hannigan, was published in 1950.  She became the United Kingdom’s most widely read novelist, with sales topping 100 million, while retaining a relatively low profile in the world of celebrity writers.  She remained the most borrowed author from public libraries in the UK for 17 years, only losing the title in 2002, four years after her death.

Thanks to her craft Catherine became a multi-millionnaire.  She supported  causes in North East England and medical research in areas that were close to her heart.  She also donated more than £1 million for research into a cure for the illness that afflicted her (Wikipedia). 

With affluence Catherine concentrated on philanthropic activities to support the less fortunate. Catherine Cookson created a trust at the University of Newcastle with a committed amount of £ 800,000. The self titled Trust is dedicated towards the progress and research in the field of medical sciences and provides medical support to the underprivileged. Besides this Catherine Cookson also contributed £20,000 for the Hatton Gallery of the University and £32,000 for it’s library (http://www.catherinecookson.net/).

Despite the challenges and tragedies in her life, Catherine Cookson reached out to help others by using the money she made from the sales of her books. The plight of the less fortunate and the underprivileged moved her to do something to make life easier for them. 

Writing helped Catherine to get through her dark hours.  It is my hope and prayer that if you are going through something, that you will find the help you need to cope.