Yolanda Speaks, and FSC Listens
LAKELAND (Jan. 21, 2009) -- Yolanda Fairell taught a class in the phrase “long suffering” at Florida Southern College. Then she challenged students to make it obsolete.
Speaking at Convocation, Ms. Fairell, a motivational speaker and sociology professor in Tallahassee, gave FSC students a short history lesson Wednesday morning. Working quickly through U.S. history from an African American perspective – from slavery to Jim Crow laws, from the civil rights movement to the inauguration of Barack Obama as president – she talked about those who were “long suffering” in America, and those for whom the suffering is just beginning.
Growing up in Georgia, Ms. Fairell said, she used to hear the term “long suffering” in church a lot. Now she understands the phrase means “suffering toward a goal,” and she talked about snapshots in the history of African Americans that illustrated the phrase: slave children being ripped away from the arms of their parents; signs designating where blacks could sit or shop; Dr. Martin Luther King’s march on Washington and his assassination.
“(During the civil rights movement), a lot of people knew when they woke up in the morning that if they got up and protested or sat in that day, they could be hurt,” Ms. Fairell said. “But they got up and protested and sat in anyway. That is ‘long suffering.’”
But, she added, “I believe that African Americans are free … that problems still exist, but we can say, you know what, (Dr. King’s) dream has been realized.”
She challenged students to work toward alleviating the suffering of other groups, such as gays, Hispanics, and women. “I believe we need to look at the suffering of people who are asking for something much more closely,” she said. “If someone had looked deeply into the fields (where slaves toiled) 400 years ago, the suffering would have ended much sooner.”