Legend.

There were many, many fascinating details I learned about France, Europe and the development of race as a social construct in Tom Reiss’ new book, The Black Count but I really got hooked on the idea of Alex Dumas as a legend in his own time, even before his son, Alexandre Dumas, used him as the inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo. Alex Dumas, born Thomas-Alexandre, was a legendary figure not just because he was a black man who achieved incredible military success at a time when policies were being enacted to dehumanize people of African descent. His story is the classic stuff of legend: born into dubious social standing, sold into slavery by his desperate father, reclaimed again by the same man and groomed for nobility, rising through the French social ladder. Everyone loves the triumph of the underdog, especially when he’s good-looking!

And it got me thinking about how any of us could be legends in the making, without knowing it. Do you think Alex Dumas knew he would be immortalized in his son’s novels? That books would be written about him? We don’t have to be big legends and we don’t have perform heroic acts but we can leave a mark on the world by sharing some part of ourselves for the good of humanity.

Every once in awhile I ask myself, “what is the point of me?” Don’t get me wrong– I place great value on my role as a mother and a keeper of the home but if you know me, you know that I totally buy into that woo-woo stuff about giving back to the universe. Some people call it karma but I think it’s a mistake to actively court karma. Instead, you should send out to the universe what you hope to get back.

Not so long ago, the “point of me” was to share my knowledge and passion with teenagers in the South Bronx. I’m still very passionate about education. I don’t have a lot of money but I do have time and energy, and that is how I’ve chosen to return the favor. Getting involved with Pathways Togo is an action that I feel good about, getting to the root of change– education. The idea of education as a path to empowerment, to personal freedom, to personal success is something that I tried to instill in my students. I reminded them often that I was not in the classroom for them, they were not in the classroom for me. They were in the classroom for themselves, and so our time together would be whatever they made it be.

I try very hard to take my own advice: the quality of my time here is what I make it. When I imagine myself as an old lady, looking back on my life, I don’t see myself as a legend, but as a small force that joined together with other small forces to create a powerful synergy in the universe that became an agent of change for the greater good.

Alexandre Dumas’ works were heavily influenced by his father, also named Alexandre Dumas. In the biography The Black Count, author Tom Reiss tells how Dumas went from slavery to become the equivalent of a five star general in the French military. Join From Left to Write on October 11 as we discuss the The Black Count. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. All links to the book are affiliate links. This means if you buy the book using the link, I get a cut. 

4 thoughts on “Legend.

  1. Thien-Kim aka Kim says:

    You're right. Dumas is the stuff of legends! Thank you for following your passion as an educator. I wish that the occupation was more valued in our society. Please continue what you're doing!

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