I spend an inordinate amount of time considering the meaning and importance of legacy. It was a word that floated around my home as a child like a bird that would never land.
Much more than financial bequest, we defined it as the passing on of honor and accomplishment to mark current and future advancement for our family and of our race. As the oldest child of a family with no boys, it was clear that the obligation was and still is mine.
Legacy is also about the passing on of family tradition. I don’t have children nor do the cousins of my family name and so, our bloodline is coming to an end. That gives me a profound sense of mourning.
Legacy in the Black American community has been purposely defiled to create a sense of disconnectedness, a lack of commonwealth in the literal sense of the word. Systems were put into place from the vilest, breeding of slaves, to the most economically egregious, creating social services that benefited single parent households.
With the passing of Nipsey Hussle, the father of a blended family, though unmarried, I wonder about his legacy. A community has certainly gathered around his mission, marked a block in Compton with his name, and hopefully will continue his legacy of wealth building.
The rumor that Jay Z created a $15 million-dollar trust for his children, yes, it was only a rumor, was electrifying in the sense that it was within the notion and power of estate and birthright. I wonder how Nipsey’s two children and their mothers will be cared for and educated in furtherance of his and their family names and traditions that go back generations.
It is important that we fight for legacy even though we may not call it by name. I hope we will consider it more frequently and diligently with the purpose it demands.
The actions we can take to maintain and grow it, are simple.
If you love someone, marry them. Marriage is an institution created, specifically, for that purpose and one that we seem to disrespect, shun and evade. The legal construct is efficient and has value.
If you have children, care for them, love them, and educate them. Support them emotionally, financially, if you can, and honor the gifts they were born with. Make sure they always know they have a home, a soft place to land in a world that was devised to shake them. If there are others who don’t have family or family support, provide it for them if possible.
Create or continue a plan for family elevation. Evaluate the names that carry weight, like the Kennedy’s and look at the model they’ve put in place. Every Kennedy is entitled, inherently deserving of an education. Their name is known in the world of politics, philanthropy, education and more. Could we discuss their mishaps? Sure, and we’ve all had them. Could we look at how they became established financially and scorn it? Sure, we could, but why would we?
If you have a brilliant idea, recognize your calling, pursue it as your plan A without a plan B. That gift is your personal legacy to this world and what will bring you the joy you deserve and can share. If you’re lucky, that elevation plan will be in place to carry you like a bird that will never land.
My family name is Murray. I’ve accomplished many things.
I am a writer. That is my legacy.
I hope it is enough.