FOR WRITERS ONLY!!!
The important thing is that when you come to understand something you act on it, no matter how small that act is. Eventually it will take you where you need to go.
Practice makes perfect, or so the adage goes. Artists who are serious about, and committed to, their respective professions understand the importance of honing their skills and techniques. They learn from mistakes and are energized by discoveries. They push themselves, testing limits, exploring boundaries, finding their way, blazing new trails as they grow more confident and experienced.
Writing is no different. Since it’s my calling, my passion, I delight in sharing. Nearly twenty years ago I self-published my first book, A Taste of Theresa: Musings From My Point of View. It is a compilation of essays and opinion pieces originally conceived and written for a guest column slot I was honored to fill. The newspaper is a family-owned business serving Southern California’s Inland Empire. When the gig ended I decided to release my work to what I hoped was a broader audience. As an aside, let me just say the target market I envisioned was undefined and it took years to begin fulfilling this desire.
I’ve also taken another look at this offering and I am amazed by, and grateful for, how much my writing has improved. I had no clue what being a scribe meant when I wrote the columns which became A Taste of Theresa. I wasn’t dialed in to my nascent yearnings. I wrote from my heart, had my say, and kept moving on. Nothing illustrates where I was then and where I am now more vividly than a review of some of my earliest pieces. Therefore, without further ado I’ve reproduced, with minimal editing…
100 GREATEST MINDS of the TWENTIETH CENTURY:
VOICE YOUR CHOICE
The Century’s 100 Greatest Minds, Trumpets the headline of the March 29th, 1999 edition of Time Magazine. Four of these great minds are pictured on the cover, Sigmund Freud, John Maynard Keynes, Rachel Carson, and Albert Einstein. No Africans, African Americans, Chicanos, Latinos, Mexican-Americans, or Native Americans made the list.
Perhaps the editorial board at Time Magazine just isn’t sensitive to the impact of their choices for the 100 greatest minds of the century. Perhaps it just didn’t occur to them that non-white people, you know, black folk, brown folk, have made tremendous contributions to the Twentieth Century also.
“No,” you say, “they didn’t go there!” As a matter of fact, they did. While ignorance is no excuse, it’s worse to permit a wrong to remain unchallenged and unchanged. The editorial board at Time Magazine will probably vigorously defend their selections. However, this is a great opportunity to set the record straight and confront establishment notions of who does and doesn’t have a great mind.
Three of these greatest minds, Albert Einstein, Dr. Robert Goddard, and Enrico Fermi all contributed to the technology of violence, which permeates our daily lives with mind numbing pervasiveness. Honorable mention is conferred on Hans Bethe, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Andrei Sakharov, and Edward Teller, the bomb makers. These men carried the mantles of Einstein, Goddard, and Fermi by creating modern day death machines. Oppenheimer eventually became a conscientious objector to the Hydrogen or H-bomb; it cost him his security clearance. Andrei Sakharov is probably best known as a Soviet Dissident who helped bring about the collapse of communism; however, as a physicist, he too, contributed to the technology of violence. Edward Teller was a strong supporter of the H-bomb and never wavered in his views.
Another great mind profiled in this issue is Dr. William Shockley. His undocumented and unscientific theory of dysgenics argued that African Americans are inherently less intelligent than white Americans. He doggedly defended his racist and inflammatory views to the end of his life. Yet he made the list in Time Magazine for the invention of the transistor. The man who created silicon valley before it became a physical reality.
As I began researching this article, I decided to consider the significant contrasts between my list and that of Time Magazine. Not all great minds spawned instruments of mass destruction. I have chosen six scientists, Dr. George Washington Carver, Charles Richard Drew, M.D., Cheikh Anta Diop, D. Litt., Dr. Ernest Everett Just, Eslanda Goode Robeson, and Lewis H. Latimer. Five Nobel Peace Prizewinners, Ralph J. Bunche, Jr., Ph.D., Albert John Luthuli, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Toni Morrison, and Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, the greatest mind of the Twentieth Century, bar none, is also included in this list. All of them should have been part of that issue.
Time Magazine’s article on the 100 greatest minds of the Twentieth Century celebrates technology, science, inventions that changed the way we live, think, and approach even the most basic aspects of our lives, environmentalism, and medical research. These areas of endeavor have never been and will never be exclusively the domain of one race of people. What, then, distinguishes my list from Time magazine’s? Who are these eleven people and how did Time Magazine’s editorial staff manage to overlook them?
Dr. George Washington Carver (1861?-1943) was an agricultural chemist, researcher, botanist, and educator. He received the NAACP’s prestigious Spingarn Medal in 1923. Among his other honors: he was inducted to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1973 and to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.
Charles Richard Drew, M.D. (1904-1950) is best known as a pioneer in the development of blood plasma. He received his M.D. and C.M. (Master of Surgery) degrees from McGill University, Montreal, Canada in 1933. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1944.
Cheikh Anta Diop (1923-1986) was a scientist, historian, and writer. Dr. Diop, who earned a Litt.D. in 1960 from the Universite de Paris, argued persuasively that the earliest humans were black (heard that before?); that ancient Egyptians were descended from black Africans and that Egypt was a black society. (So why does Hollywood always cast Cleopatra as a white woman?)
Dr. Diop founded, and was director of Radiocarbon Laboratory (first carbon-14 dating lab in Africa.) He and W.E.B. DuBois were honored as two people who had extensive and profound influence on Twentieth Century Africans around the world.
Dr. Ernest E. Just (1883-1941) was the first African American to receive the Spingarn Medal. He was a renowned zoologist and educator who pioneered research in cell behavior. Dr. Just earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1916.
Eslanda Goode Robeson (1896-1965) was a chemist, Pan-Africanist, activist, anthropologist, and business manager. Mrs. Robeson earned a B.S. Degree in Chemistry from Columbia University. She was the first African American to get a job as an analytical chemist and technician. Her employer: Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, NY. She was director of the lab and also conducted research projects.
Lewis H. Latimer (1848-1928) was an engineer inventor. In 1876 he worked on patent drawings of the original telephone for Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. He was a pioneer in the field of electrical illumination; his patents include the Maxim Incandescent Lamp, 1880-82. He was engineer for Edison General Electric and Olmstead Electric Light and Power Companies. He was also a consulting engineer in New York City from 1912 until his death in 1928.
Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, Jr. (1904-71) was the first African American to receive the esteemed Nobel Peace Prize, in 1950, for his efforts in the Middle East. Albert John Luthuli, (1898-1967), a former Zulu Chief and leader of the African National Congress was awarded the prize in 1960 for his peaceful efforts to end racial segregation in South Africa. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (1929-1968) was awarded the prize in 1964 for his non-violent civil rights work. Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1931-) was awarded the prize in 1984 for his non-violent campaign to end Apartheid in South Africa. Dr. Toni Morrison (1931-) was awarded the prize in 1993 for her historical fiction work entitled, Beloved, which illustrates the pathos, cruelty, and depravity of slavery in the United States.
W.E.B. DuBois was a brilliant, articulate, and provocative man who argued persuasively for the intellectual empowerment of Africans and African Americans everywhere. His tireless efforts earlier in the Twentieth Century are often over looked, especially in this country where his Pan-Africanist views are used to minimize his historical significance.
Again, who are these eleven people and what distinguishes them from Time Magazine’s choices? They all have used their knowledge, skills, and expertise as tools rather than weapons. Each one has made contributions that elevate the human condition. Each one chose peaceful means coupled with personal commitment to realizing their dreams for a better world. Each stepped into the breach, identified problems and offered constructive solutions to benefit all mankind. Perhaps Time Magazine’s editorial board should reexamine their choices. Help them out: voice your choice.
Reproduced from A Taste of Theresa: Musings From My Point of View, ©1999, holly Tree Publications, LLP, High Point, NC by Theresa Bennett-Wilkes. This book is no longer in print.