“Roll With Being A Role Model!”
Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins
Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! Trusting you are well and staying cool this summer. I’m currently giving thanks every day for air conditioning, cool beverages, and lightweight clothing. Although I’m a Southerner by birth, this heat is something else!
Despite the high temperatures, I spent this past Fourth of July outside surrounded by my extended family. I considered it a blessing to be in the company of five generations ranging from my great aunt–who recently celebrated her 93rd birthday–to my twin third-cousins from Virginia who was spending the summer with their grandmother. I ate too much, sipped on something…and had a chance to bask in the stories of days gone by.
One thing I realized between bites was that I have so many role models within my family. My great-uncle, who has spent over fifty years being the only black barber in Brunswick County, North Carolina, sat beside his nephew, a U.S. Army veteran, retired fire captain and the father of two exceptional daughters. Across from them sat my younger cousin who, in her forty plus years, has lived several lifetimes: she’s been a college student and ferry boat worker, and currently earns her pay as a nuclear power plant worker. She’s a devoted wife, exceptional big sister–and knows how to stunt on a motorcycle like nobody’s business!
Too often, we look to celebrities and big names to be role models. We sometimes forget just being the people we are–lovers, friends, and family members–we are setting examples for others to follow. Celebrate that by doing what you do and doing it well: this inspires others to step their game up. Roll with being a role model.
I would venture that if you sit down and really think about all that you have done in life, you’d realize that you have accomplished at least three things no one expected to do. Because of that, you have the potential to encourage someone to push him/herself to be better.
Two of my biggest role models are young men who live vastly different lives in two different states, but they each inspire me to do better. Calvin was a high school football stand-out who had potential to make it big. Instead, he decided to be a family man who nurtures and shapes the lives of his daughter and sons. His social media pages are filled with pictures of his children, his wife and his family.
Calvin is a devoted family man who works hard to provide when so many of his former teammates are living it up. Despite having a frame that made an opposing player drop the ball rather than be tackled during a high school game, he is so gentle and affectionate with his children that it leaves me in awe.
Leslie spent the first thirteen years of his life as a young Black boy in a small coastal town where he was the only Black student in his pre-K program. He spent his early education years being one of a few–if not the only–student of color in his advanced classes. Now he’s a globe-trotting, MBA-having, Eagle-Scout who “handles his bizness” for a Fortune 100 company. And, he still keeps me cracking up with well-timed texts and social media posts.
And then there’s Laura. Of Caribbean heritage, her family immigrated to America from Canada when she was eight. She worked hard, and earned her Master’s in community agency counseling in two years in a hostile educational environment. Laura works with children with mental health issues, takes splendid care of her friends and pets–and is the only person I know for sure who has read everything I have written in the past four years.
We are all somebody’s role models. Own it and hold your head high because your actions help prove to someone else that whatever you want is possible. No setback is permanent, and we should see obstacles as opportunities.
Walk in the reality that you are someone’s role model…and stay cool.
Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”
LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism. An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.
During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C. The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.