Last week, while teaching my youth entrepreneurship class for Re:LIFE Inc., I asked my students what they would like to be in the future and where they see themselves in 5 years.
Majority of the responses, which all seemed the same were the ‘baseball players, NBA players, rappers and musicians etc. As sad as this may be, I have almost become insensitive to the shock I encountered the first time I heard such answers. I mean, what happened to being a doctor, lawyer, accountant and engineer, or even just having the desire to go to college, even when you did not know what those meant? What happened to the pride we carried as young ones, when we rambled on on how, because my uncle or my dad, or my favorite dad’s friend was a doctor, a teacher, an accountant, engineer, designer, architect, etc, we wanted to be just like them. What has happened to students giving credit to their teachers for helping mold their ideas of a career? Are we a dying Nation I ask?
This insensitivity that I now carry is the consequence of these ‘mediocre’ responses becoming the norm. Yup, I said it! Aspiring to be an illiterate or GED sportsman or entertainer, is in my view, MEDIOCRE.
Every youth class that I have taught, tutored or mentored (and by youth, I mean elementary age to 24) have always responded unanimously with the same answers of ‘athlete and entertainer’ wannabes. In some cases, there are some who arrogantly pride themselves in having no future plans, while the dying breed are those who struggle to understand the value of education as being relevant to their futures.
So in response to this utter foolishness, I have almost memorized my now ever-ready ‘You need an education’ recital as a way to hopefully inspire them to dream better. I even adopted a tradition of meeting with all the boys 10minutes before the end of class to have a brother-to-brother heart talk with them. Lord help us!
Forgive me, for I digressed from my main point today. So back to this class and their responses. After rambling on about the importance of education, especially for them as minorities, one student who did not speak yet blurted out, ‘Mister you know what my new year’s resolution was?’ After I shook my head, expecting his response, I heard what I never ever imagined my ears would entertain in this life.
‘I want to get shot and not die. Just like 50 Cent. That way, I would get all the girls, make all my ‘boys’ respect me and make sure many people fear me’.
I froze to death. And died again even while dead when most of his classmates agreed with him, detailing how and where they wanted to get shot at.
My heart wept, and all I struggled to do was reiterate to myself that these young teenage 10th graders had HOPE. A HOPE for survival because that statement reeked of nothing but DEATH. Emotional, Psychological, Social and ultimately physical DEATH.
Are we a dying NATION I ask again?
Now, this incident affected me the way it did because 3 days earlier, while helping 7th graders with their homework, I realized that one of the boys busied himself with drawing art not relevant to his school work. When I insisted on seeing what he was doing, I was shocked to realize that he had drawn a picture of himself shooting another classmate of his. 7th graders, really?
The question that has lingered on in my mind remains: Are we killing our children with too much TV, hip hop culture, unsupervised liberty and our indifference to realize that violence and gang related culture has sipped into the fabric of our communities? When did all this happen and who is to blame? Do we blame the artists on TV who perpetuate these foolishness, or do we blame our families for not being accountable for the well-being of our children.
Unfortunately, I do not care nor respect selfish entertainers in our midst, who are more concerned about their pockets than the well-being of our people. I find it difficult to regard the Jay-Zs, Diddy’s, Rick Ross’, Kanye Wests, Lil Waynes, etc, who have the power to influence our youth, but have not responsibly encouraged these youth about the benefits of educational success. I’m not saying that some of them have done nothing, but when your degrading music or art speaks louder than your message of hope; when your lousy empty music which classifies our women as bitches and symbolizes them as sex object, is constantly played on air, and I have to intensely search for your good deeds, something is wrong about the message you claim to preach.
By all means USE YOUR ART TO SAY SOMETHING WORTHWHILE; TO POSITIVELY IMPACT just as LOUD!
Where are the Lauryn Hills and her likes, who minister and give life to the souls of their listeners? Why aren’t we supporting these ones whose messages are more reflective, uplifting and inspiring, rather than the degrading and empty ones?
I hate to say that while many of us blame white suppression as the reason for our woes, we have become worse that those who we claim suppressed us. We have inherited that mantle of mind slavery, and are greatly inflicting our people with it.
When will we arise?
When will we wake up to realize that we are dying as a Nation, and where one disappears, another will rise?
We have come along way from our journey of existence, and should not die from our own callousness.
And while I borrow this paragraph from the book ‘Black Rage’ written 43 years ago by William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs, let us ponder again and recognize that we are now our own emeny:
“I will take it no longer.
We weep for the true victim, the black American. His wounds are deep. But along with their scars, black people have a secret. Their genius is that they have survived. In their adaptations they have developed a vigorous style of life. It has touched religion, music, and the broad canvas of creativity. The psyche of the black men has been distorted, but out of that deformity has risen a majesty. It began in the chants of the first work song. It continues in the timelessness of the blues. For white America to understand the life of the black man, it must recognize that so much time has passed and so little has changed.” – Black Rage
Unfortunately, its not just white America that must recognize that there’s been little progress, but we as a community must realize how debilitating our self-inflicting ‘change’ has become; How backward we are regressing, and how responsible we are for the DEATH of our NATION.
We must remember that according to Shakespeare, ‘Men are masters of their own fate. The fault lies not in the skies, but in our own hands’; because when we lose sight of that, and let our youth DIE, then We as a people crumble like a house without a foundation.
Yet the question remains: Are we a dying NATION?You can also find me on other outlets: Re:WORD BLOG Re:LIFE’s Blog Sincerely, CHIKE UKAEGBU