My great-grandfather Arie L. Felder was a slave, and the absolute coolest man in the whole world. Granddaddy had this rhythm in his voice that made everyone want to hear anything he had to say. Granddaddy Arie, as we called him, believed each person’s character should dictate how they treated themselves and how they were treated by others. As a result, each person had the responsibility of knowing for sure they had the authority of control over their life by defining the boundaries of their own character, in the middle of anyone’s negative comments about them or their life-limiting opinion of them. In fact, he’d say,
“Every person breathing has the right to their opinion, and it is not your job to try and change anyone else’s opinion. The only person each person has absolute control over is him or herself. So it becomes each person’s responsibility to themselves to decide, and then live by the opinion you have of yourself, and let other people do what they want to do for themselves. Cream rises to the top and mud sinks to the bottom. If mud gets on your shoe from being around people who mean you no good, just rub it off your feet and keep going. Living by your own established and respectful character means no one else’s mud will ever get the best of you. When you establish for yourself, and live how you expect to be treated, you won’t have to concern yourself with anyone else’s opinions or their intentions. Establishing how important you are to yourself and to the world will allow you to recognize what works against you and why you have to ignore against your will as mud to avoid having to put up with the negativity connected to it”.
Granddaddy Arie lived through slavery, but never seemed angry, hostile, or mean. I wanted to know how he always seemed so calm about everything, as well as how he was able to get people who looked at him crazy to come into agreement with him or not bother him. (Because during his time, and even sometimes today, those who hated Black people demanded that they be paid immediate attention, like whatever they wanted was somehow more important.) He laughed a little and said:
“People pay way too much attention to how other people perceive them instead of living based on the character and worth they determined is right for them. But the thing you have to know is people always have something to say about other people and the limitations they want to be a part of who they are. But nothing says you have to listen to that or get too involved in those types of opinions. Every person with a good brain has the responsibility of being respectful of people, but you can do that without disrespecting yourself. When you go into an area, and you can feel the people that have something against you; simply smile and keep doing what you’re doing. Nonsense never has to be listened to, followed, acknowledged or addressed. While they’re trying to figure out why you aren’t reacting like they thought you would, you will have done what you needed to do and gone on to other things you have to do. There is no law saying you have to listen to or take part in the limitations of hatred from people. When people decide to exist in hate, they made the decision of what they are about, and they have every right to be about that. At the same time, you have the right to make decisions about what you are about, and you have every right to be about that. So you do what you do, they do what they do; and the two never have to meet in the middle or anywhere else.”
In putting these truths into practice, Pro ME is Not Anti YOU™! will allow each Student Ambassador to be the new leaders on the block, inciting positive change for students who look like them, and America as a country who has gone to great lengths to incite irrational fear and hostility toward people like them. In an action of empowering students, please refer students (10-18) and young adults (19-30) interested in being the change in the world they want to see to become a Student Ambassador. Just remind them to add you as the person who referred them, because we want to show that you bless those who bless you, on purpose. Students will have to complete a portion of Pro ME is Not Anti YOU™!, but everything begins by receiving an email describing the change they want to see in the world, through the power of their voices. All interested should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.