State of the Black Union: The Future of Black Youth

Charles Ogletree begins to break down the perception that our kids are thugs. Very little in the last presidential campaign about incarceration rates. "There are millions of young, talented African-American men that are being marginalized every single day in every single way."

"The reason black males are having such a problem is that people don't respect that they can be productive members of the community." BUT, he points out that what young black people did in this past year is go vote, and that changes the equation.

Dr. Tricia Rose: I love Tricia Rose. She's a professor at Brown University and was one of the first scholars I read who wrote about hip hop. She's talking about the question of hip-hop and the relationship between economics and culture. She says if we want to have a discussion about the perception of young African-American youth, you have to understand the economic ramifications of their situation. The ghetto has been an ongoing thing in the black community for 60-70 years. Points out that urban renewal was really "negro removal".

Hip hop emerged in that environment. Hip hop feels a deep void but she talks about how over time, hip hop has become a product. "It got pressed into the service of the images and stereotypes that drove the justification of slavery, Jim Crow and post-racial thought." Notes that hip hop has a 70% purchase rate by white males between 16-22 and it celebrates the trinity of the gangsta-pimp-ho

The gangster ideology comes out of chronic joblessness as does the sex trade. Thug life becomes a thug product. Stripping becomes a cultural idea that reflects who you ought to be.

"At what point do we have to ask a higher question? Thug life shouldn't be a product, it should be a crisis we try to change. We're too busy consuming to notice!" (Dang, Tricia Rose! Drop that knowledge!)

She says in some communities there are more entry level jobs in gangster rapping than there are in real upward mobility and reasonable opportunity occupations!

The problem is that we've been so affirmative of that crisis that we haven't been transformational enough. We have to recognize that these are market products that tell stories of who we are as well as who we should be. We can't just "represent". Hip hop has to ask itself to represent what it wants, not just a market economy

"You don't want to have a market economy represented in you because you were the original market economy!" -- That's deep when you think about how slaves were the original commodity in this nation.

We have to love with affirmation and with transformation. If you wanna tell me the story about your AK-47's, tell me that story in the spirit of how you're going to get somewhere else!

Note to self: Read more Tricia Rose books!

Next up is Peter Harvey. Harvey is a former State Attorney General from New Jersey and he's talking about how our work in the community can never end. Says that the mistake we make is thinking there's some panacea, some magic pill that's going to eradicate the problems we're facing.

Says law enforcement has to realize that you cannot arrest, convict or prosecute your way out of societal ills. You need to do those things because people need to feel safe in their communities. You have to address the triple threat of street violence, domestic violence and sexual assault and right now, "We make decisions about where we'll go based on violence." -- that is absolutely true because I know I'm not walking around my neighborhood after dark!

Harvey says that people run for office talking about how tough on crime they'll be but not how smart on crime they'll be. We can't be satisfied with inoculating people from a sickness but also have to be busy finding the root cause. Harvey's big on mentorship programs and after school programs. He shares that the dangerous time of day is 2:30-8:00 at night when adults are at work or looking for work, and young adults are roaming unsupervised. -- Again, with serious budget cuts looming in California, I wonder how this is going to play out.

We have to have a continuous conversation about education, about how jail is not a badge of honor but a badge of shame, and in the age of terrorism, you'll see that felonies will keep you from getting more and more jobs. If you have a felony conviction, you can't work in a bank, around sensitive information or equipment.

Harvey feels we don't need to arrest every kid that's getting into trouble. Instead, officers should bring that kid to the station and get them a mentor. -- How many of you out there are mentors for kids? I know my sister is a mentor for a girl back home. I should become an official mentor as well.

He reiterates that we all need to read the stimulus bill and know what's in the laws because we need to know what we're asking for and we need to make sure that law enforcement is sensitive and is not incarceration-based.

We need to know that most young people on the streets are followers and are actually not that bad. They can be turned to more positive things, if that's what we want, but it won't happen on it's own.


Shiona said…
My mom and brother are in this program called Rising Star. It helps to educate African Americans and help them get the info they need in preparation for college. On one particular weekend my mom was combing the Internet because she had to find a young black role model who was not a rapper or athlete. I automatically mention Hill Harper. He is not all that young as we found out. Beyond that I could think of nobody else...
Liz Dwyer said…
No, Hill Harper is not all that young, is he? It's a good question, who are the non-athlete/rapper/actor young black men (or women) in the spotlight?

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