Photo is Property of The Family of Lawrence Barclay
Program Courtesy of Judith El-Amin
His impact was so far-reaching, that Lawrence Barclay’s Social Studies Class at Empire Jr. High almost seems like a small footnote. It was in fact however more like a giant footprint and huge stepping stone for us all.
As I sat in Mr. Barclay’s Social Studies class at Empire Junior High School over sixty years ago, I did not and of course could not know the influence he would have in my life. He was one of only three African American teachers I would have during my primary education years, and his impact would be significant. I understood that as a student I was there to learn, or explain to my mother why I was not learning.
If you lived in my mother’s house, learning was much easier than explaining. I also understood that Mr. Barclay was the teacher. That was enough understanding for me to learn what was required and to enjoy the process. Mr. Barclay was pleasant, encouraging, well-liked and highly respected. He earned that respect without demanding it. He knew when and how to “put the hammer down”, but seldom found the need to do so. He had the ability to impart wisdom while making you feel better about yourself.
Little did I understand at the time how important self-image would be to my future. While I was being sheltered from some of the harsh realities of bias and discrimination, I was at the same time being prepared for a future filled with it. Mr. Barclay was well-aware of the many challenges I and others in his class would face, because he was among the victims of a society that refused to look past the color of his skin. But that is not the message he shared with his students, because he was teaching us not how to lean on what could further cripple us, but to strengthen what would help to sustain us.
By building our confidence and our competence in a world which was ready for neither, Mr. Barclay prepared us for a future that for some is still revealing its possibilities. Mr. Barclay taught not just the facts, but also the possibilities. He was a true educator and role model, whose lessons and legacy we stand upon today, and build upon for tomorrow.
During Black History Month (aka “what was missed or misrepresented in American History”) and in fact all year long, we would do well to look and think beyond the obvious, beyond the internationally known, beyond the widely celebrated. Those who work daily “in the trenches” deserve our recognition, respect and uplifting. They are the ones who often in spite of their own circumstances and challenges, share with us the information and inspiration that enable us to survive, prosper and become more than others ever imagined. And it isn’t just “the other person,” but those heroes also include you.
In the mirror you will find someone made in the image of the Creator, with power and potential that is to a great extent unknown, undeveloped, underestimated and unappreciated, even by the one looking into that mirror. Attached to your forearms is your best chance for getting a hand up on your situation. As long as your heart beats and your mind functions, you have potential within you to make a difference in the lives of others, while making the most of your own. This is a part of the lesson that came out of Mr. Barclay’s classroom.
In the process of doing what you do on a daily basis, you are impacting others and in fact writing a chapter in the history of the world. Whether you believe that what you impart is small or large, boring or super-exciting, of little or of great importance, you are being observed. Someone is learning from you, being inspired (or not) by you, and even emulating you. Be encouraged and be challenged to be the absolute very best at making a positive difference in the lives of others.
To read more of the impact Mr. Barclay (Dr. Barclay) had on myself and others, you may view his BIO within his Homegoing Program by Clicking Here.