Affirmation 'gang' offers guidance, support

Affirmation 'gang' offers guidance, support

By Andrea Scott

On Jan. 20, many people celebrated historical leaders on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I celebrate his life every day by sharing my own life story, and sharing how Dr. King’s dream and many historical African-American leaders saved me.

Like my ancestors, I was told by many people throughout my life and even by my own teachers, of all the things I would not be able to do. For instance, I was told by a college Spanish professor that I would never be able to learn Spanish.

I did not let this stop me. Instead, I thought, “What would Dr. King do?” or “What would Harriet Tubman do?”

Today I ask myself, “What would Michelle Obama do?”

They never let anything or anyone stop them from achieving their dreams, so I followed their path.

Today I am an award-winning bilingual author. I decided to create Smile Big, Dream Bigger LLC and write bilingual children’s books to support my community and give tribute to my ancestors.

I write about Dr. King and other historical leaders in my children’s books to encourage readers to do the same: to achieve and reach for those dreams despite any negativity that may occur in their lives.

I value all the messages, famous speeches, quotes and actions that the leaders took to make a difference today. That led me to become the first in my family to graduate college. The first person in my family to live in a different country, learn a different language, and start my own business from scratch: the Smile Big, Dream Bigger bilingual tutoring program.

I didn’t grow up in a nuclear family. I didn’t live in the best neighborhoods. I did not have anyone to look up to. Instead, I read a lot of books about historical black figures such as MLK, and I began to imagine that they were part of my gang – my support system – who would help me to defeat urban statistics and achieve my dreams.

I grew up surrounded by gang violence and poverty, but I did not want it to affect my future. Anything that was negative in my life, such as gangs, I turned into something positive: I created an affirmation gang.

This journey has been difficult. In some ways, strenuous. Tumultuous. But I knew I had to do this. To prove that Dr. King’s dream can be a vision of our own destinies.

This is the message that I teach my students every day.

It is because of my wonderful students and affirmation gang members that I will continue to work to overcome my fear and truly explain how I got to where I am today.

I used to be afraid and sometimes embarrassed to tell my story. It’s not a fairy tale, and it comes with too many sad memories.  Some people may be cynical, but I can tell you it has made me stronger. And I hope it will inspire and impact many people.

Andrea Scott is an award-winning bilingual author and founder of Smile Big, Dream Bigger LLC tutoring program.

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