I was asked by one of my writers to try and find a positive take away from the outcome of the Zimmerman trial and write about it for Concrete Cakes. I told her that I’m probably not the best person for the job. This is partly because my socio-political views are a little more militant than what I’d like to present on Concrete Cakes. And I personally don’t think the murder of Trayvon Martin will cause our people to make any dramatic changes in the way we live or the way we address social problems. We’re just too comfortable.
So after I thought about the request for a few days, I felt obligated to offer my opinion on a “somewhat” positive take away. I decided to use this moment of injustice to issue a challenge to our people; especially our young people. And I want to offer a concrete set of “Next Steps” that can be taken to change the world we live in for the better.
On Monday, July 22nd, a group of friends and associates and I organized a screening and panel discussion for the film Fruitvale Station which chronicles the life of Oscar Grant; yet another victim of racial violence. Similar to Trayvon Martin’s situation, the Oscar Grant murder caused a national uproar and media blitz. So the timing of the Zimmerman verdict with the release of Fruitvale Station couldn’t have been better for us to discuss “What Now?” Some of the suggestions from the panelists were very practical, such as educating our youth on what to do when they’re confronted by law enforcement (or rent-a-cops like Zimmerman). Some other suggestions hinted at radical solutions and other left-field ideas that didn’t include any practical next steps. The latter of these suggestions are counterproductive and lead to more “discussions” rather than actions. They also don’t take into account generational differences and the fact that the process must be rooted in the youth. Therefore, if we are to be honest about enacting change, we must look at the problems with deductive reasoning. Let’s start with identifying these problems.
WHAT KIND OF CHANGE ARE WE SEEKING?
People of color in this country face numerous challenges and social issues, both internally and externally. This causes further internal conflict because we can’t maintain a unified front on any particular issue. Our efforts and resources are spread so thin that no significant progress is made. Our people are still judged by an unjust legal system. Our schools are still failing our youth. And our economic gains are still disgustingly disproportionate to other groups of people. If the change we seek is dictated by the amount of news coverage it receives, we’ll never accomplish anything substantial.
HOW DO WE GET THE YOUTH INVOLVED?
“Not one of our lives is caught up in the daily superstition that the world is bout to end. Who gives a fuck? We never do listen…unless it comes with an 808…”
– Kendrick Lamar on A.D.H.D
Kendrick Lamar was dead on with his assessment of the youth. None of us have had to fight for our civil/human rights so we’ve been raised comfortable. And what’s worse, we’ve learned to placate the problems we do face with parties, twitter and reality tv. So how can change be rooted in the youth if the youth can’t focus on anything outside of their twitter feed for more than a day or two?
HOW DO WE TURN DISCUSSION INTO ACTION?
Discussion is definitely necessary. We need to discuss our problems in order to develop solutions. However, the people who need to hear the discussions the most are rarely ever in the room and those that are in the room rarely ever relay the message. Those who do are the minority. So the conversations become repetitive because the problems continue to exist. Even when the conversation is worthwhile, we have trouble transitioning to sustainable, measureable actions.
Here’s what I suggest.
START WITH EDUCATION
The problems we face are plentiful and require a high level of expertise and leadership to develop and enact solutions. Therefore education must serve as the foundation. However, the type of education needed is much different from what’s typically taught in public schools. Most people believe that financial resources are the key to producing a quality education but I disagree. Although new computers will be helpful, it’ll be like using a band-aid to cover a hemorrhage.
The problem with our educational system is cultural. Today’s youth are more empowered and more critical of teachers than in generations past so they constantly question the value of the education they’re receiving. We must help them connect the dots. They have to understand that the effective use of language is a source of power. They need to understand that history foreshadows the future. They need to know that math is an exercise in critical thinking and will help them solve real world problems that don’t have anything to do with math. We also need to make additions to the curriculum that include financial literacy and personal brand development so they’ll be prepared to add value to their communities. A longer school day/year won’t hurt either.
EMPHASIZE THE NEED FOR URGENCY
Most of us are too comfortable with the status quo and we only seem to rise to the occasion when a problem becomes a trending topic. What we fail to realize is that in the history of our captivity in this country, dating back to 1492 as the first slaves were brought with Christopher Columbus, 521 years have gone by. And of those 521 years, we’ve only had our “legal” civil rights for 48 years. This means we’ve only been “legally” recognized as full citizens for 9.2% of our existence in this country. If someone spit in your face for 91 out of 100 days, would you feel comfortable in their presence after day 101?
So there should be no surprise that we still face a disproportionate amount of injustice and socio-economic hardships. What’s worse is that our “enemy,” these internal and external roadblocks, is now hiding in sheep’s clothing, when previously he had brazenly bared his teeth. And our youth, having never met this “enemy” don’t know he exists or the extent of his power. The enemy I refer to is not any one person or group of people, but rather our issues as a whole. We need to incorporate in our daily lives an emphasis on positive change. Our youth need to be shaken on a daily basis rather than when another Trayvon Martin incident occurs. Our kids are failing in life everyday.
Our issues are universal but everyone fights differently so everyone’s next step will also be different. But what has to happen in unison is our intentionality. Whatever passion we decide to pursue, we must align ourselves with like-minded people and be intentional about using our passions to solve a specific problem in a measurable way. We can no longer think solely of ourselves. Since we have an unjust legal system, if Law is your passion, you must work towards getting laws such as the “stand your ground” law in Florida changed to protect our people. If your passion is business, you must work towards providing economic opportunities for your community so that we’ll grow strong and influential as a unit. And regardless of what your passion is, we must develop our youth into leaders to carry on the fight because there’s much more fighting left to do.
If we are to truly enact social change, we must be consistent and intentional. We can never be comfortable. We can’t value what’s cool over what’s necessary. We have to focus on a specific issue at a time and use our expertise and resources to attack it head on and measure progress against the desired result. And most importantly, we have to trust God and never quit.
(Below are images from the Screening and Panel Discussion of Fruitvale Station powered by Tabb Management & Friends. #NoJusticeNoSleepPhilly)
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(Posted by Garron Gibbs)