DR. BOYCE: What Our Generation Can Learn from Dorothy Height

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The late Dorothy Height was a giant, an absolute beast in the world of civil rights.  By saying she was a “beast,” I am giving you my raw perception of the depth of her impact and the power of her presence in the African American community.  Even well into her 90s, Dr. Height could speak in a room with hundreds of people and make it so quiet that you could hear a mouse wiggle its butt in the bathroom.  She had that kind of magical impact on those with whom she communicated.

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Dorothy earned the respect she received.  She did more in her 90s than most of us do in a lifetime.  She sacrificed everything in order to serve her community.  She brought light to issues that affect African Americans and women, and eventually became an irreplaceable force in a community that seriously needs its heroes.  Heaven just got a new soldier.

RELATED: Obama: Height Was “Godmother Of The Civil Rights Movement”

Although Dorothy Height didn’t have any biological children, the truth is that we are all her children.  The torch she carried to the age of 98 has been handed to each of us, and it is imperative that we answer the call for progressive leadership in our great nation.  The same courage and day-to-day determination that this woman showed to her grave should be carried out by all of us in our day-to-day activities.  We must stand up for what is right, and do what we can to make ourselves the absolute best we can possibly be.

This starts with you, me, and the person next to you.  Dorothy teaches us to demand excellence from ourselves and our children.  Mediocrity should not be an option.  She also demands that we engage in personal and collective responsibility for causes that matter to our people.  That includes voting in every election, showing up for every rally, fighting for every cause, giving love to every child and doing all we can to make the world a better place.  When you put positive energy into the world, you will find that the world benefits because of it.  That benefit should be considered without regard to whether or not you personally reap the rewards.

RELATED: TRIBUTE: Dorothy Height Left Major Legacy For Women, Black Americans

Dorothy reminds us that women are far too often left off the table of leadership in the black community and our nation at large.  The fact that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking woman in the history of our federal government is simply shameful.  In the black community, we have not allowed women to have voices that boom as loudly as those of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Tavis Smiley, Ben Jealous or Marc Morial. This has got to change, and we all have to do our part to open our minds to equal opportunity leadership.

Dorothy Height can, ironically, be compared with the late Tupac Shakur.  Although “Pac” was a conflicted soul, his tireless energy in life gave him hip hop immortality in death.  He released more albums after he passed than he did when he was alive, reminding us that the energy we put out in our lives can last longer than we might expect.  Dorothy Height was similar, since the influence she had on young minds will carry itself for dozens of future generations.   The same is true for you and I, so you should never underestimate your own impact.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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