The recent events surrounding the death of another one of youth, this time at the hands of a neighborhood vigilante, has gained national attention and sparked the previously dormant flames of action which, once fanned, have now spread like a California wildfire across all of America. We all see young Trayvon Martin (may God bless his soul and bring comfort to his family) as one of us. Even the President of the United States gave a speech acknowledging, "If I had a son.....he would look like Trayvon Martin." When we see those pictures of this young man, who on his way home from the store to buy Skittles and Iced Tea, was profiled, stalked, approached and eventually murdered by someone who was 'patrolling' the neighborhood and felt the "fucking coons" always seemed to get away, we should see our younger brother, our son, our daughters, our friends......we should see ourselves. Upon recognizing ourselves, we seem to always ask that plain and simple question......"How could something like this happen?!" I plead for you to not stop there however, also ask "What can be done to prevent other innocent young lives from being senselessly loss to the hands of violence and apathy (and in some cases disdain) towards their futures."
Since blacks have been in America, and certainly sense they have been deemed Black Americans, we have had to deal with racial profiling and violence. Because of the color of our skin, we have been considered dirty, immoral, ugly, unworthy of love, malevolent, distrustful and worse. Our women have been considered loose, disinterested in motherhood, slothful, and whorish....and worse. Listen to the propaganda and you'll learn that our children are wayward with a love for violence and carelessness and a profound hatred for education and structure. Personified images of these sentiments were created and spread throughout the US and anywhere else in the world it was assumed would have interaction with the Negro. This caused many people the world over to 'know' this version of the Black person from America. It took a strong sense of self awareness and focus on self empowerment to garner the efforts of all of those who stood strong and shot this message down during the Civil Rights movements of the 50s, 60s and early 70s. Black Americans began to realize the freedoms they had been afforded and wanted to see more for themselves than the poor disenchanted neighborhoods they'd been raised to believe was their pinnacles. We want to be able to live as we decided to live, where we decided to live and without a fear for being attacked because of the unfounded negative preconceived notions constructed by White America to disassociate us from the of Humanity. To a degree it worked. The messages from leaders like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, Bobby Seals, Fred Davis, Martin Luther King Jr. and others, bled into every facet of Black American life and created a sense of love and the desire to be empowered. The reflection of this movement was seen in how we entertained ourselves as Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Marvin Gay, Sam Cooke, Gil Scott Heron and others subconsciously (and not so subconsciously) promoted the message that we as people were worthy of love and would begin to uplift one another and show the world our collectiveness. The message Black America sent across was a powerful one....so much so that it gave fear to the structure of America itself and served as the cause of death for virtually every leader named above. Crack was introduced to our neighborhoods, poverty and a sense of helplessness set in, children became orphans and wardens of the state, parents became disinterested in being responsible and accountable for anything and eventually a complete and total fall of our culture ensued.
The only thing we had which shed light into what was happening.....the only "voice" we had throughout the darkness of the 80s and 90s was that of our entertainment. As drugs (which were proven to have been introduced and funneled into the Black American community by our national government) and gang violence ravaged whatever sense of security and peace and love we had, our entertainment.....Hip Hop, continued to tell our story. Our spoken artists continued to be the Voice through which virtually an entire generation of Black Americans gained a sense of self pride, self worth, self awareness, self acceptance and most importantly.....peace. Sure there were negative images in rap music throughout these times, but those images were not something young Black Americans were told to strive for at all costs. Those images were what those of us who grew up in troubled, poverty stricken neighborhoods knew all too well. We were comfortable with what we were hearing because we were seeing this reality every day. Art was imitating life. And while coded and cryptic to some, the messages were still messages of empowerment...."You Gotta Keep Ya Head Up," "Today Was a Good Day," "Never Seen a Man Cry." Many of us were 'raised' from this music. Still till today, when I'm in a complete life rut, I turn on some Pac and "Smile".
In 2012, we can no longer say that the world is being influenced by stereotypical propaganda being handed out by White America.....not exclusively. As a people, Black Americans have lost their way. And it is going to take the collective efforts of us as a People to regain our footing. The hip hop and entertainment which once served as our voice through the wilderness has become but a war cry to all that we dare come into contact with. Where we once strived for excellence and betterment, we now only care to gain wealth so that we can flaunt it in the eyes of those of us who do not have such luxuries. We make promises to the world and anyone in it that we are beasts and murders and drug users who act without thinking and without remorse. This image, now coming from us, is sold worldwide and is being promoted and saluted on television stations and radio stations everywhere. For a few gold coins, we have allowed ourselves to become our own worst enemy. No longer can we blame others for how they view us. The truth is Black Americans are afraid of Black Americans. We don't want to live next to one another. We are afraid of those children that were left behind by their fathers and disregarded by their mothers who have grown up with a perpetual chip on their shoulder and harbor disgust for everyone who ignored their pleas for help. There has been so much pain and anger in their world that many young Black Americans have no fear for death or life. They have no respect for elders and authority. They have no desire to gain an education of any kind that they feel will not elevate them immediately. Rappers (because I refuse to call some of this art) know this and cater to that anger and resentment. Self hate is spewed loudly on microphones and through speakers and into the young minds of our children who are being raised by children. Our lives and our communities are now imitating the so-called art. By choice we have created an environment for ourselves where everyone has a right to be (unfortunately in many cases should be) afraid of our children.
The only way to fix these concerns is through love. We must recommit ourselves to ourselves. We must regain control of our own communities and become more open to our young people who are looking to their elders for guidance. Hell, it’s time for many of us who haven't, to recognize ourselves as elders. Love is the only thing that can overcome hate. Nothing else is strong enough. Loving our enemy has proven to fail us time and time again. That should not be our first priority.
We must learn to love ourselves:
I stand with us all as we demand justice for the family of Trayvon Martin. I also stand in love and support for every young life that is lost. I stand against injustice and indiscriminate behavior against all Black American youth, no matter who sits at the hands of. I stand against the promotion of the so called thugs who are making it harder for our innocent children to be viewed as such. I stand against the rampant misogyny and ultra sexuality that has taken hold to and distorted the minds of our young people. I stand against the deadbeat dads who walk away from their children and leave them wondering their entire lives who they are and how well they stack up to the rest of the world. I stand against gang activity and the foolish interpretation of 'no-snitching' that says we cannot speak up against anything we see out of fear of being attacked ourselves. The energy we are now exuding for justice must not die with the arrest and charging of George Zimmerman. That's too easy. Let's stand strong and demand the betterment for our people across the board. Let's hold one another accountable for the lives we create, take or influence. Let us again fall into love with ourselves and one another.
I too, am Trayvon Martin. And I stand for him as I stand with you:
"Father forgive us for living
While all my homies stuck in prison
Barely breathing believing that the world is a prison
It’s like a ghetto we can never leave
A broken rose giving bloom through the cracks of the concrete
So many other things for us to see.
Things to be our history so full of tragedy and misery
To all my homies never made home
The dead peers I shed tattooed tears for when I'm alone.
Picture us inside a ghetto heaven
A place to rest
Finding peace in this land of stress
In my chest I feel pain come in sudden storms
Life full of rain in this game watch for land thorns
Our unborn never got to grow never got to see what’s next
In this world full of countless threats
I beg God
To make a way for our ghetto kids to breath
Show a sign
Make us all believe....." (Tupac Amaru Shakur)