“We do not need to attend classroom training programs for everything. Observation opens the windows of knowledge around us”
― Sukant Ratnakar
The first time I read the article “What Is A Black Life Really Worth” in the Final Call, I began to write the Taking Responsibility series in hopes to bring awareness in urban communities. I wanted to present the pride and prejudice that has engulfed our surroundings leaving the residents dazed and confused. As marches and riots persist in various areas around the United States, it seems as if a black life is only important if someone of another race takes it.
With triumphs such as having a black president in the office and Oprah Winfrey owning her OWN Network you would think that there would be a decline in the deaths of African Americans (at least by the hands of other African Americans).
Oh, but hip-hop and the media are another animal.
Now, calm down my urbanites! I love me some hip-hop, but we have to talk about this.
Since its arrival in the early 80’s, hip-hop began as the voice of urban communities, keeping listeners abreast on the issues that effected the neighborhood. This platform has provided an image and voice that seems to have had evolved into a negative impact on the partakers and has spawned a wide-spread consensus of drugs, promiscuity and death in the last twenty years. This genre has proven to be the most powerful weapon in the history of music and has been able to triumph over the limitations of race, religion and economic status. Though it was once considered a passing fad, hip-hop has become a force to be reckoned with and (after viewing the Hip-Hop Awards on BET) it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.
Reality television has become the epitome of foolishness and defeat for the urban community. With shows such as: Love & Hip Hop, The Sisterhood of Hip-Hop, Exes of Atlanta, and Tiny and Shekinah’s Weave Trip it is easy to see why black women are considered aloof and unstable. These shows may be a form of entertainment, but not many people realize how fake reality television really is. Many viewers emulate the attitudes of the reality stars and lust after their exciting lives by stirring up drama in their neighborhoods and end up serving jail time as a reality.
In the past five years we have been choked with racially driven movies: The Help. The Butler. Django. 100 Years A Slave (sarcasm intended). Depiction after depiction of the inferior minority overcoming the bite of injustice. These movies are supposed to arouse a sense of triumph, displaying how the quality of life has improved for urban communities since the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964, but it seems to cultivate more hate and tension between races and within them.
Though it is easy to blame music and media for the steady decline of our community, that would only relinquish the power that we hold as individuals and as a unit. We sell ourselves short because we may be on government assistance, lack “formal” education, or simply live in the projects , but some of our greatest leaders experienced these same situations.In fact, these disparities are the reason why most civil rights activist take a stand.
The plight of the urban community is being aware of the past (i.e slavery, segregation,the civil rights movement) but unable to use it as a launching pad for better decisions versus wallowing in defeat. Instead of blaming the past for why we are not getting ahead, we can observe what is not working for our community.
With the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown the urban community is in angst, raging against itself. We cry and march in memory of these young men, but we still fight and degrade one another daily. We listen to music fueled with hate, we intimidate and taunt our neighbors and call them ‘haters’. We judge those that are well versed and call them names like uppity or stuck up. We treat those that live in government housing as animals, and some of us even play along and assume the role of beasts. We throw trash in our streets and tear down our community.
Yet, we want better.
We want the good life; money, cars, clothes to appease our lust for the lifestyle of the rich and famous. We dress up as our favorite characters and dream about a life without stress. We have become a walking, talking oxymoron, leaving a bittersweet taste for the future.
Today, in the park, a young man was cut in a fight. He was lacerated on the left side but the wound wasn’t deep enough to penetrate his heart. The young man ran home and got his mother to help avenge him. You could hear the mother coming up the side walk inquiring about the assailant, the people she asked laughed at her and did not tell her where the young man had hidden himself. But, had it had been someone of a different race, you couldn’t beat Al Sharpton away from this town.
Violence is violence. Death is death. No matter the victim or opponent.
We must take ownership for our actions, children and community because they are our responsibility.
All images were found on http://www.google.com