Dream Basket: The Black Girl from West Fresno

Posted on 02.29.2012

Quite some years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to students at Kirk Elementary School in West Fresno. As a recent college graduate, I spoke to them about pursuing their dreams. I was still pursuing mine—I wasn’t “there” yet, but I was still on my journey, despite setbacks and challenges I encountered along the way. I not only spoke to these students, but I sang for them. I sang a song that I had been inspired to write for these kids. I was so excited that I had the opportunity to share my journey in hopes that they would be encouraged by me—a Black kid from West Fresno, just like them.

Last month, I was invited to speak to sixth graders at Cedarwood  Elementary School. I accepted that invitation and I fulfilled that appointment last week. Here I was, once again, getting an opportunity to share my life again, so many years later, with yet another group of elementary students. There was a difference this time, though:  I, the Black girl from West Fresno, was “all growed up,” married for 24 years with two daughters and now in the private practice of obstetrics and gynecology. I had reached my goal. This time, I knew that God would have me really share the hard truth about achieving one’s dreams. Been there. Done that.

I told them that when I was fourteen, my Dad died of leukemia and that I thought I would die if he died. I didn’t die. I lived and tried to remember all the things he taught me. I knew I wanted to become a doctor and at age seven. I also told my dad and my mom that I wanted to go to either Stanford, Harvard or Yale. I actually went to Stanford.

At Stanford, I remember getting a “C” in chemistry. I needed to get an “A” so that I could get into medical school. I took that class again, and I got an “A.” I didn’t give up.

After receiving my degree in Human Biology at Stanford, I had to work in order to save money to apply to medical school. My family did not have money. I had to make my own way. So, I worked. I applied to medical school and I got in.

When I was in medical school, there were days that I did not think I would make it. At the end of my first year, I had failed two classes. I did not give up. I took those classes again and did well. What would have happened had I quit? I would not be with them telling my story.

I apologized to them for talking about difficult things like the death of my father. But I had to mention the difficult, because life is that way. I told them that my father’s death could have distracted me from my goal of becoming a doctor and when one has a goal, there will be difficulties and distractions, like divorce, child abuse or financial problems. Some wonderful kid chimed in “bullies!” I said, “Yes! Being bullied can take one’s attention off their goals, just like drug and alcohol abuse, and the opposite sex can.

Lastly, I told them if it had not been for my faith in God, I would not have made it. Those eleven and twelve year-olds were attentive and their teachers had tears rolling down their faces. Because the principal had asked me to sing, I sang the same song I wrote in 1981, for the students at Kirk Elementary School, called “Dream Basket.” I walked before the kids holding a basket, and many of them, without prompting, began to symbolically throw their dreams into the basket. I placed the basket atop the piano, sat down and sang:

Without a dream, there is no future.
Without hope, there is not a cause good enough to fight for.
Dreaming is a vision of the hope we have in our hearts,
Believing is a way to make our dreams become real.

So, place all your dreams in a basket,
Along with some HOPE, and BELIEF,
Carry it with you, wherever you go.

And, let no one in this whole world
Take your basket away, for the time will come,
You will see the day,
That your dreams will come true!

It’s so easy, you see, to dream!
It’s just as easy, you see,
To believe in your dream!

When I was done, I knew that God had moved, someway, somehow, through this Black girl from West Fresno.