Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was read the Letters to the Editor in Ebony magazine. Oftentimes, those letters would be critical of John H. Johnson, publisher and owner of the magazine. The turbulent ’60s were going on, and people were critical of the stories and especially the focus that Ebony took. I remember one response where Mr. Johnson said he was more interested in concentrating on the achievements blacks were making than anything else. At the time, I didn’t understand his response. But years later I do.

You see, we have a variety of gatekeepers in the black community. Their job is to make sure that black people remain in whatever situation we’re in. Some gatekeepers focus on controlling the economics that black people obtain. Others are the thought police, who want us to think a certain way and have issues with us when we don’t.

One of the things I have found myself doing over the past couple of years is not focusing so much on the woe out here. It’s true that many of the problems facing the black community are overwhelming. At the same time, we are also making progress. When a decision has to be made about which direction to go, focusing on the woe or highlighting the positive, I choose the latter. Some of the strides we are making are huge. Other strides are small. But each pushes us forward.

When I do focus on the woes, that’s when the gatekeeper show up to make excuses. Racism, white privilege, and white supremacy are genuine. But there has to be a very delicate balance between utilizing them as reasons and having them turn into excuses. The “fine line” difference is what we black people can control versus what we cannot.

We can create our own economy. We can create our own employment. We can value education as a stepping stone to the enrichment of our minds. What we cannot do is make/accept/use any and all excuses for not making progress.

With a majority of all people now owning a smartphone and having access to the internet, there is so much knowledge available. The internet has created economics. The internet has generated opportunities for both employment and entrepreneurship.

In the spirit of John H. Johnson and Sankofa, let’s move forward while recognizing our past. Let’s focus on the achievements we are making and have made. Let’s push open those gates and run over the gatekeepers. Our progress should not be determined by anyone other than ourselves.