“As a Man Thinketh in His Heart so is He”
n Prov 23:7
My first memory of speaking to Mr. Alford happened upon seeing him in the basement hallway of Carver High School outside of the Commercial Art trade classroom. By this time in my life I had found some comfort in myself by creating a fresh identity of me, I had cliqued up with some questionable characters who had street rep and notoriety. So I had a bit of chip on my shoulder. And here’s “Alford”, a tall man. He would stand right outside that classroom door straight up, I don’t think the man could slouch. Right then you knew you were dealing with a man of confidence. With his arms straight by his side, sometimes just slightly bent as he would allow his hands to rest in the pockets of artist’s smock. He stood would dignity, a good word to describe his stance would be stately. For some, before you got to know Mr. Alford, he would strike you as imposing figure. And so here I go, bopping down the hallway with a baseball cap on, knowing I shouldn’t have been wearing a hat in the building in the first place. I see “Alford”, and as I pretentiously walk by him, I say, “What up old man?”
Now Mr. Alford had this deep dramatic baritone voice and when he spoke within the basement hallway, the acoustics of the surroundings would make his words echo as they bounced from wall to ceiling. He said to me, “Dummy, what are you doing”? “Take that hat of your head dummy”. I know I was thinking, who this dude calling me a dummy. I said to him “Who are you?”. Now I can remember Mr. Alford asking me “Who are you”?, several times over the years that I knew him.
I didn’t immediately appreciate that “Alford” was properly educating me and empowering me with knowledge. Over the years, Mr. Alford would constantly and continually ask me:
What are you doing?
Who are you?
What type of information are you feeding your mind?
Mr. Alford helped me begin to understand, who I am. He introduced me to being unapologetically Black. “Alford” taught me the importance of reading, listening and thinking. He made me aware of an entirely different paradigm for being a young Black man in America. Mr. Alford would teach a lot of us that we didn’t have to be mindless automatons acting as agents of madness. Of course I cannot speak for everybody, before I was introduced to “Alford” my mind had been shaped into an antenna and a amplifier. I was getting all the wrong signals from all the wrong channels and to make it worse I would go out and broadcast all the wrong ideas.
So Mr. Alford helped me tune in. And this was in 1987, way before now when everybody wants to “turn up”, Alford was helping people tune in to what matters, tune into knowing and understanding who we are and how we can better ourselves.
Mr. Alford was teaching us to think. He was teaching us that what we read, listen to and think about has an enormous impact on who we are, how we act, how we interact and socialize and with whom we socialize. When “Alford” asked me, “Dummy, what are you doing”?. I understand the goal was to challenge me to think. “As a Man Thinketh in His Heart so is He”