The energy in the room seemed to rise with each minute of the 10 I spoke. I was at Southern University, a HBCU in my hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last month to give a TEDx talk introducing the ideas behind Aging While Black (#awB).
Afterwards, a millennial said she saw her “place in the culture with a new clarity.” An elder commented he felt “valued and embraced” like never before.
The TEDx experience, coupled with an enthusiastic response to the Aging While Black website launch, leave me firmly convinced that exploring the intersection of aging and race is urgent.
The Aging While Black movement is more than just a concept for me, it’s a calling! I believe we must urgently address the unique experiences faced by Black elders as our population ages. Black elders are the backbone of our communities, and their wellbeing is critical to the strength and vitality of our society.
But, the #awB community cannot and will not be exclusively Black elders. All five generations have active roles in this movement. The spaces frequented by the elders, the agencies supporting them, and the families who love them are all vital to advancing the movement. And while I have attempted to give voice to the significance of this matter, my role must be understood as producer/director, not star.
At the TEDx event I outlined three pillars as essential to the wellbeing of Black elders, their families, and communities.
The first pillar I call Recalibrating the Village. To be prepared for the oncoming realities of aging while Black, we need a complete overhaul of the ecosystem that engages and supports Black life.
The second pillar, Embracing Innovation and Rapid Change, requires us to adapt to new technologies and systems and recognize their potential for creating new opportunities. Maybe self-driving cars, for example, will allow us to keep the keys to the car well into our 90s and beyond.
The third pillar, Leaning Into Sankofa, is the West African concept of making benevolent use of the past to build a better future. The wisdom of the elders is invaluable and must be shared and embedded in the culture. But also, the industrious, creative, and disruptive middle generations must be supported and encouraged to ensure the wellbeing of both the elders and the children.
These pillars are an important beginning, however, they are not enough on their own. Building a community of support to advance the Aging While Black movement is vital to building a better future.
We need to create safe spaces for Black elders to share their experiences, insights, and wisdom. The community must advocate for policy changes that address the unique challenges of aging while Black. Policymakers must be engaged to create programs and policies that support Black elders in their communities. It’s time to amplify the voices of Black elders and address the experiences they face.
This is beyond personal to me. My very existence has been shaped indelibly by the hands and voices of the elders. I am likewise committed to leaving my fingerprints on a better world for all people, especially Black elders.
You are invited to join us as we passionately embrace this journey and join together in creating something truly special and transformative. We cannot afford to wait; the time to act is now!
If you are already a part of the #awB community, lean into the movement and invite others to join us. If you are not yet a part, please go to agingwhileblack.co and join us as we explore the important intersection of aging and race.