“Precious” is one of the most endearing words in African American culture. How did our slave ancestors learn this word, since they were forbidden to read books under threat of punishment? My guess is that in days of old, when they listened to the minister preach the gospel around the campfire, they must have heard him refer to a scripture found in

1 Peter 2:19-20: “But he paid for you with the precious life blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but only recently was he brought into public view, in these last days, as a blessing to you.”

I recall as a child hearing the word precious used often in my family and by my relatives. When something was above all things and almost spiritual, it was referred to as being precious. Statements relating to a child or a loved one’s beauty were elevated with this word.

The word “precious” appears in the title of one of the most beloved gospel hymns, “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” Written by Thomas Andrew Dorsey (1899-1993), who composed over a thousand gospel songs, this hymn became famous when Mahalia Jackson performed it. It was inspired by the death of Dorsey’s wife and child during childbirth.

Precious Lord Take My Hand

Precious Lord, take my hand,

Lead me on, let me stand,

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn

Through the storm, through the night,

Lead me on to the light,

Take my hand, precious Lord,

Lead me home.

When my way grows drear, precious Lord, linger near,

When my life is almost gone,

Hear my cry, hear my call,

Hold my hand lest I fall;

Take my hand, precious Lord,

Lead me home.

When the darkness appears and the night draws near,

And the day is past and gone,

At the river I stand, guide my feet, hold my hand;

Take my hand, precious Lord,

Lead me home.

The film Precious, which has received many awards, is about an African American family whose members are disjointed in their relations with each other. It magnifies cruelty, hatred and incest. This film will be shown throughout the world, presenting an image of African American life that is not at all precious. Unfortunately, it has been written and produced by one of us. There is an old saying, “We have met the enemy and they are us.”

During my practice of medicine, while living in the hood and making house calls, I never once saw children being treated like the character Precious is in the film. As a Sunday school teacher, I only witnessed the love that parents and teachers had for the children.

Now, I’m not saying that Black children are never mistreated, but a film such as Precious may be regarded as the norm by those who are not acquainted with African American life and culture.

Black History Month is a time when our culture is celebrated. It emphasizes past and present achievements that have contributed to America’s survival and its greatness. It should be celebrated by all races.

Americans should be proud that they have elected an African American President who, together with his family, presents a “precious” image to the world.

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