A good friend of mine asked me to write a charge to be read at his newborn son Langston's baby dedication (called a christening in some churches). I was honoured and at first struggled to write anything, but one morning I was dreading going to work, depressed because of how disrespectfully my co-workers were treating me and I began thinking about everything Black boys and Black men go through trying to make something of ourselves and it all tumbled out on the subway. This is the most important thing I've ever written and when I read it everyone loved it, so I thought I'd share it. My own godson Diego is pictured above.
I charge you, Langston Samuel Bennett, first of all, to grow. Grow everyday in body and stature, in mind and consciousness, in heart and spirit. Grow as your parents water you, their seed, with sustenance, wisdom and love.
I charge you, young Langston, to get to know yourself, who you are and where you come from, where your parents come from, their parents and theirs. The great capital in which you reside, that beautiful island of sun and struggle that birthed your ancestors, that old gray island of wealth and power many of them left it for, and that supposedly dark continent their ancestors were stolen from, where the light of men first shone. Where your light first shone. Knowledge of yourself is what will keep you from the same fate as so many of us, who believed the world's lies about who we were and what value we had. You are more valuable than anything money can buy. You are priceless.
I charge you, young Langston, to get to know the world, both the one your parents are working hard to raise you in, and the one your parents are working hard to keep you from experiencing. If you understand the ways in which you are privileged, you can use that privilege to help those who have less, and you will multiply your blessings.
I charge you, young Langston, to seek out education, and not to settle for the one this country will give you, because it will take more from you than it will give. You need more. Education is probably the reason your grandparents came to this country, and to make them proud your mother and your father sought out a school built especially to educate us, especially to build us, to mold us, and I did the same. It was there your father became like my brother, so you are like my nephew. So education is a family thing.
I charge you, young Langston, to live up to your name, because it is powerful. Dream, and then attack those dreams with your most powerful weapon, hard work, and do not defer them for any man, woman or child. It is true, you can do anything you want if you believe in yourself, you will just have to work a lot harder than you think, and harder than some other people.
I charge you, young Langston, to remember that women are people and not objects. Lord knows they are beautiful, they are fearfully and wonderfully made but they are still people. Always treat them as such. Watch the way your father treats your mother. Watch the way your mother carries herself, and the respect she commands. Give her that respect, and every other woman in your life.
Last of all, young Langston, when you have grown into a man with knowledge of self and the world around you, a man that has educated yourself and worked toward your dreams, a man who has found a woman that you respect, I charge you to pass all of this on to your children. Pass on everything you have learned to them and every other child in your life. I'm sure they will be proud of you, I'm sure your mother and father will be proud of you and I'm sure I will be proud of you.