I recently visited Chicago for my birthday and for the 4th of July. Normally when I visit, I'm in a less...um, "tourist friendly" side of town. Anytime I go, it's all love, but this time I got to see some of the things that make people of Chicago so proud to be from there. Notice I said I saw only some of the city while I was there.
Chicago is huge. And by huge I mean drive for ONE WHOLE HOUR ON THE HIGHWAY and still be the city huge. I can't wait til me and me ol' camera go back. Click here
to see entire gallery.
Last week I did a 'behind the scenes' photo-shoot for one of my homies, Des Moines hip-hop artist King Capo
. It was interesting seeing all the people most folks would call thugs come out and organize a fathers day BBQ and video shoot. Aside from a little tension, it was all jesus that day.
I know a lot of people that happen to make music. Myself included. For most people it winds up being nothing more than a fantasy that one day gives into reality - the reality that you are not as awesome as you think you are. But the funny thing is, some of us really are awesome, but'll never get a chance to share that awesomeness with the world. Its a shame what circumstances like your race or gender or even the zip code your born in can really mean to a persons chances at success.
For me, its always good to see people committed to progress, both their own and the people around them, despite what ever circumstances they come from. I grew up in hoods all around the midwest and the south, so I know what its like to not have a way out, or have it seem like there is no way out. In these conditions people sometimes give up and let life live them and life has a way of grinding people into to nothing. Others find confidence in themselves and their abilities (sometimes that ability is selling crack, but we'll talk about that some other time) and come to realize that the way out of the hood/poverty/prison-cycle, is a course that only the individual can set for themselves. That's why stay close to the hood. Conducting business, work and school keep me away from the streets regularly (and that's probably a good thing), but I'm around enough to help when and where I can and to remind me that no matter how far I go in my career(s) and in life, there are people dealing with a life and living in a world they feel they have no control over, and I don't ever want to back to feeling like that.
to see full gallery.
(I wrote this essay back in September of 2011)
I watched President Obamas’ speech on jobs last week, hoping he would say something to me. I hoped he would say something about the depression level unemployment rate that black males suffer. I hoped he would speak to the limited access to resources that prevents us from opening businesses or furthering our education.
I expressed this concern to the older, wiser members of my community and they assured me that Obama see’s us. He just can’t address us directly for fear of alienating the majority that supports him. This answer didn’t satisfy me, but I could see the logic.
After watching the President’s Speech, I attended another, this one by the former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich at Drake University where I attend. His talk was surprisingly funny and immensely informative. His comments on taxes, healthcare and jobs drew applause from every member of the audience and I sat smiling as he addressed issue after issue with a fiery intelligence that I can only hope to achieve in the future.
After his speech there was a short question and answer session. I hurried to the stage, eager to ask this great man the question our president had not answered. I stood in line as the audience berated those who dared ask more than one question or offer a lengthy introduction before “getting on with it”. Finally it was my turn and Mr. Reich looked down sagaciously from the stage as I framed my inquiry.
“Considering the unemployment rate for African-Americans is nearly twice the national average,” I said nervously. Suddenly aware that I was only one of about a dozen black faces in a room of hundreds. “My demographic has been living in a depression for nearly a decade. What do you think the benefits would be if the government addressed this issue directly, or if not, what can community members do to address this issue directly?”
He stepped back to consider the my question then very gracefully acknowledged that minorities have been hard hit by the recession but assured me that we are all, this entire country, in it together. He offered that education should play a role in addressing black poverty, but I should not forget that this is not a race issue.
I regarded him, again unsatisfied with the answer an elder had given me and embarrassed I had put him on the spot. His response echoed something I had been told years ago by older, bitterer black men; they don’t care about us. Not in a malicious, hateful way. But the neglect we feel comes from the lack of consideration. The pain comes from not being seen and then being made to feel ashamed to show concern in public for your people. At the moment he said it’s not just about you, I felt inappropriate; guilty for making the people in the audience squirm under a subject they could have gone months without thinking of.
And from this experience I have stumbled across a truth that has given me more solace than the answers from my elders or even the President. We, African-Americans or any other group, cannot look to others to solve our problems, or wait for the government to acknowledge our suffering. Progress and relief will only come from pursuit of the American dream in a coordinated effort and unapologetic allegiance to one another, similar to the Hispanic and Asian communities.
I appreciate Mr. Reich and his honesty. While I can’t agree that we are all in this together considering the obvious disparities, I do recognize that an intelligent, brutally honest approach to this question will yield the most fruitful answers.