Break the cycle
America was a very different country when Martin Luther King gave his legendary ‘I have a dream speech’ in 1963. Fast forward 54 years later, and I’m not sure how he would feel knowing that his people are still in the streets asking for basic civil rights. I say new times call for different methods.
The two main objectives of marching are typically related to raising awareness, and asking other people (the government) to solve your problems. Both are perfectly fine but they don’t produce the type of enduring change that is necessary to transform a society. Freedom is earned not given.
In his 13th studio album ‘444’, Jay Z trades the signature hip hop bragging style for a more scholarly approach. His objective is telling his fellow African-American brothers and sisters to get their act together and get on that “financial freedom” wagon he so perfectly hopped on. Yes, rich, successful people can come across as condescending when passing down “the major keys to success” but focusing on that is a waste of time. Substance is what matters. Jay is trying to give folks “a million $ worth of game for $9.99”, how kind of him!
The type of “game” he is referring to has little to do with marching. It’s rather an ode to making moves, it’s about going out there and forcing your way into a system that was seemingly designed to keep you at the edges. Knowledge and excellence will set you ablaze is the bottom line.
The #BlackExcellence hashtag popularized online by the likes of P Diddy and Naomi Campbell might seem crude a priori but is in fact spot on. It ought to be read and internalized as a rallying cry against mediocrity in the community. The underlying message is one of economic empowerment. To sum it up, it aims to encourage the community to go out there and excel at whatever it is they set their minds on, otherwise the chances for change are slim. It is a simple yet powerful message. We all need to lead by example. Quite frankly there is no other way forward.
Where do we start
Actions speak louder than words but not all actions are equal. Change never happened overnight, it’s a process – as President Obama likes to remark. My personal belief is that this process must start with education at the nuclear family level. Folks need to get their house in order to enable the next generation to get a shot at competing on a level playing field. Yes, there is systemic racism in America but a handful of enlightened people can turn the system upside down if they pave the way for others to excel. Believe me, that is far more powerful and long lasting than the mere act of marching.
PS: The dream started with a march, followed by a run, which turned into flying.
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Milain – Founder / Eben