How a Street Culture Threatens to Destroy the Next Generation of Black Leaders
Aiyyo here’s the situation: idiodicy
Nonsense, violence, not a good policy
Therefore we must ignore, fighting and fussing
Heavy’s at the door so there’ll be no bum-rushing
Let’s get together or we’ll be falling apart
I heard a brother shot another, it broke my heart
I don’t understand the difficulty, people
Love your brother, treat him as an equal
They call us animals — mmm mmm, I don’t agree with them
I’ll prove them wrong, but right is what your proving them
Take heed before I lead to what I’m saying
Or we’ll all be on our knees, praying
~ HEAVY D
One of the most discussed issues among African-American adults over the age of 40 surrounds the harsh reality that the world that nurtured our generation(s) and provided plentiful avenues for each of us to develop and express our individual uniqueness as we were encouraged to capitalize upon the many increasing opportunities that flowed from the sacrifices of our parents, grandparents, and many African-Americans that we do not know.
Although it is not my intention to romanticize the late-eighties period that I grew up within, for all of its positives one can never forget that it was that period that introduced crack cocaine to the African-American community and the mandatory sentencing guidelines that paved the way for both the prison-industrial-complex and school to prison pipeline.
To borrow from Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, the late-eighties could be remembered in the following manner; “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” While many of my peers concentrated on their academics in a fanatical manner that paved the way for collegiate scholarships, graduate school, and professional careers, there was another population of individuals, many of whom we were either related to or friends with who chose a different path that they thought would bring them fast money, fame, and power. Unfortunately for such individuals, their best hopes were dashed by repeated arrests, convictions, and lengthy sentences for participating in the drug trade.
Most notable is the reality that these two populations were most certainly distinguishable from one another, I commonly heard the term ‘college boy’ hurled my way in an appreciative way by many segments of African-Americans. Truthfully, I took pride in being able to on site discern if a person were a ‘college boy’ or ‘college girl’. Their status was conveyed in their posture, dress, language, and overall public image. In time, I came to realize that I had little in common, and therefore my paths rarely crossed, with those who were not collegians. Although we may have been blood related or had been childhood friends, there came a moment when our paths diverted and never came back together.
Put simply, during the late-eighties, there was a wide-gulf between those aspiring for degrees and professional careers and those who had chosen criminality as a way of life. Considering the recent shootings this past school year involving students at Prairie View A & M University and Texas Southern University it appears that the wide-gulf that distinguished African-American collegians from what can be best termed ‘street’ elements of our community, has totally disappeared.
Often there appears to be no discernible difference between the African-American collegian and their less savory counterparts, in fact, one may be able to consider them one and the same. Who would have ever imagined that the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, institutions that are supposed to be independent centers of higher learning that nurture the minds of future generations of African-Americans intellectuals, professionals, leaders, and spokespersons have now come to resemble common street corners where the less savory aspects of our community exist.
One is left to question what has happened to not only our centers of higher learning, but also the young people who are currently attending the alluded to institutions? Although it is not a very popular perspective, I fervently believe that our community has been taken over by a negative culture that has through various mediums (social media, television, movies, rap videos, etc.) given our youth a false understanding of what it means to be an African-American. Instead of local collegians operating out of a tradition presented by Barbara Jordan, many of our young ladies pursue the boorish behavior of a Nicki Minaj, rather than learning who Mickey Leland was many of our young men are more comfortable following the example set by 2-Chainz or some other rapper of questionable moral character.
Now I am most certainly a proponent of free will. So if that is the path that you choose, please go on your merry way. However, the problem comes in when you choose to pattern your life behind such questionable personas, yet at the same time desire to hedge your bets and bring your ridiculousness to our centers of higher learning. Have the courage to understand that if you participate in criminality that is an individual choice that should never be considered a mandate to involve those who are diligently working to earn an education and a professional career.
If I could say anything to today’s ‘college boy/girl’ it would be that it is time that you separate yourself from the ignorance and anti-social behavior that has become the moral and social foundation of so many of your misguided peers. Trust me when I say that the pursuit of education and a professional career will ultimately benefit you in ways that those who choose to run the streets could never imagine. However, the choice is ultimately yours; and if there is one thing that is certain, a house divided can not stand; now it is time for you to decide what you stand for. Put simply, is your understanding of blackness derived from some rap song that calls for you to die in a hail of bullets or receive a prison sentence that even you could have not imagined, or do you love yourself enough to position yourself to capitalize upon all of the sacrifices that your ancestors have made? I guess only time will tell.