In raising a family, I try to keep a recurring theme going in my household. While I try not to bash people (not out loud anyway, LOL!), there's always a public push to "do better". Let's face it, there is plenty of room for growth in our culture and less high-profile leadership to set the standard for our younger generations. That said, I was inspired to create this article on some of my observations and some of the messages I can be heard repeating, sometimes at the top of my lungs. I can't say that I'm not guilty of breaking a few of my own rules from time to time but I try to stay on task a lot more than I stray. Hope you enjoy the new rules. :)
BLACK BUSINESSES HAVE TO DO BETTER
I’m the first one to say that Black dollars should be spent supporting Black businesses. But.. black businesses, we’ve GOT to do better. This doesn’t apply to every Black-owned business but a lot of my experience has been with businesses that need a good work ethic overhaul. Work that’s late or not executed as advertised or just have shady business practices.. this needs to stop. Everyone appreciates a business that stands behind their work and ensures they deliver a quality product, whether they’re your customers or not. Your reputation is at stake every time you take on a new or repeat customer. You have to go out of your way to make sure they get what they pay for. And watch your attitude, and the attitude of those who represent you at the counter, on the phone, etc.. A great product or service can be ruined by poor customer relations in a heartbeat. Word gets around and once your bad reputation gets put on repeat, it’s hard to recover.
BE ON TIME
Just be on time. Do whatever you have to do to meet that commitment. There is an expectation in and outside the Black community that we can’t be on time so, do your best to prove them wrong every single time. Over the weekend, I usually iron 5 shirts and pairs of pants for the work week and have them at the ready. Even though I may defer from the wardrobe plan on any given day, I have a plan in place. If I’m running late for work, I’ll leave the house half-dressed and put on shoes and socks and belts at stop lights. I keep a toothbrush, deodorant, cologne and even a razor in a shaving kit in my car’s glove compartment, just in case. I don’t make a habit of putting myself in the position to need these methods but they are there if I need them. All you REALLY need to succeed is a reliable alarm clock and a will to be on time.
STOP PARTICIPATING IN YOUR OWN CHARACTER ASSASSINATION
Let me start by saying that even without the videos and memes that Black folks post on the web, you could find an abundance of negative imagery about Black people online. That said, I’d love it if sites like worldstarhiphop.com just went the hell away. I’m embarrassed by the sheer volume of ignorant shit Black folks post on the web. While it’s understood that a lot of times kids post these scandalous pics and fight videos, I’ve seen many adults repost and Facebook-share these posts over and over again; perpetuating the ignorant image. Not only negative, but IGNORANT. There is always some stereotypical video clip or pic posted that implies that Black people fight ANYWHERE they happen to be (the hood, McDonalds, a night club, church... doesn’t matter), that we all steal, we are uneducated, we don't care for our children, etc. I’ve seen videos of crimes being committed, bullying, guns being flashed or fired.. just pure dumb stuff that suggests we all should be feared, distrusted or gunned down in the street (sound familiar?). National, and probably global, expectations toward American Blacks are insultingly low and, at times, coupled with the inherited racist attitudes handed down through generations. And that’s WITHOUT the posts I’m referring to. We don’t do ourselves any favors by suggesting to the world that we promote and embrace the mentalities these videos and memes suggest. Believe me, few people will separate the ignorant uploaders from the majority of our community who also thinks this is some of the worst society has to offer. How can we laugh about this violence and all out ignorance in one breath and then express outrage in the next breath, when we aren’t taken seriously or when you’ve been slighted by some predisposed impression of you or Black people (that you've helped foster) in general? If you imply a pattern of zero self-respect, then no one feels obligated to treat you any differently. The media already has this character assassination job locked down so please, please do not help them. The internet is a powerful tool and can do much to undermine the negative imagery you can already find EVERYWHERE. It makes sense for Black folks to harness this power to publish as much positive and progressive information as possible to counteract the negative. Information that would help unify our people, as we so desperately need to do. We play a major role in American and global culture, but the focus on Black folks is always steered away from the good we do by a landslide of negative imagery. Many times originating from within our own ranks.
Graduating high school nets you that coveted diploma and states that you have enough education to qualify for a job or college. It also shows that you have the tenacity to hang in there and work through obstacles to meet your goal. This speaks to your character. There are plenty of things that can distract you or slow you down on your education grind; pregnancy, incarceration or falling in with the wrong crowd can all be reasons you get sidetracked from graduating. Go back. Deal with you’re your immediate issue then get back on track. Take the time to get it done. Go to school at night.. whatever it takes. YOU CAN DO IT!! Then, college or a trade school should be the next goal you create for yourself.
KEEPIN’ IT REAL IS SOME BULLSHIT
No need to feel pressured to keep it real. Being true to the hood and showing that you’re a REAL nigga is just a brand of brainwashing that basically ensures you close off or narrows down your future opportunities and puts you on a path to jail, the morgue or both. (Yep, that was a long sentence, but so is a felony conviction.) And once you get that paper on you, it’s a weapon used against you to ensure you don’t bounce back into the mainstream. You can‘t vote (in some cases), finding a job is a challenge and the likelihood of temptation to get money in the streets again may put you back on track to incarceration. Break the cycle and say f--k keeping it real. You see on the news every night how Black on Black crime has taken another life in our community. That essentially means two deaths in the community because one life is lost to the coroner and another to the prison system. Although, the long, hard prison sentences are usually only dealt out when BLACK people kill Black people. A lot of times, young black males are caught up in peer pressure to prove that they have enough heart to commit a crime or take a life. It’s not such an abstract mentality when the media, video games and music take lives in 16 bar increments. I know the theory of violence in music and video games is challenged as much as it is embraced but the value of lives can be subconsciously diminished when you are bombarded with killing through these media that kids spend the most time with. So, keeping it real can, at times, translate to trying to live like they do in virtual environments where there are no consequences for their actions. In summary, keeping it real can suck it.
IT’S TRICKING, EVEN IF YOU GOT IT
Unfortunately, hip-hop has got fools believing that the only way to have credibility in the ‘hood is to have soooooo much money you can indiscriminately throw it away and completely waste it. To display that you have no money concerns. Rims, gold chains, real or bootleg designer labels, etc. This financial status, in most urban neighborhoods, only exists on iPods. The notion that every rapper is a retired drug dealer is sold to kids over and over again. No one raps about how people have to get up and go to work to get money. They have to earn money and KEEP it to pay their bills, to ride the bus or the train, to provide a roof over their heads and do normal stuff like put gas in their car. Singular, not cars. We won’t even address here the question of where this message is coming from or who is helping to continually promote this in the community. I’ve never seen so many raggedy-assed events have the audacity to have a V.I.P. section, another cultural norm that has been sold through hip-hop. And, my personal pet peeve, the notion that it ain’t tricking if you can pay strippers to be around you and act like they like you. In so many words, I mean. No matter how eloquently it’s stated, or how tight the beat is that it’s stated over, keeping a woman around you for money is tricking. The hood-Webster’s definition of a trick is a sucker who pays a woman (or man) to spend time with them for sexual favors or companionship. So let’s look at making it rain for what it really is. It’s tricking, even if you got it. Rappers, if you REALLY wanna keep it real, figure out a way to talk about other topics in your songs that young people really face daily and quit telling our daughters that stripping is some cool shit, and, while you're at it, pull your damn pants up so my son knows how to dress to get a job, and tell kids to aspire to greater heights to get out of the hood, and quit making staying in the hood sound honorable, and quit making literacy and going to school sound like it’s the sucker route. In short, quit giving out instructions on being a whole generation of porch-bound tricks.
STRIPPING IS NOT AN HONORABLE PROFESSION
Hip-hop has also helped brainwash a whole generation of young girls and ladies (and some older ones too) that stripping is your best way to quick stacks of money. Damn near every song has a strip club back drop of some sort… making it rain, girls shaking their asses for money, rappers flying their fav stripper out to them to dance for them.. whatever man. Even love songs talk about the woman dropping it low or popping their asses, etc. So the groundwork is laid for strippers to be an honorable profession and a viable option for impressionable young queens. The undertone being "he wrote a song honoring the girl who is willing to get naked for money; maybe, if I'm nasty enough, someone will write one about me". I hear women defend stripping (mostly strippers) saying that stripping isn’t prostitution but, it still gets more attention than any other in the pathway of young impressionable minds. We can do better!!! Now I do realize that stripping isn’t prostitution but, parents, would you let prostitutes hang around your daughters and tell them how cool it is to be a prostitute? Would you allow a heroin addict to sing to your daughter 6-8 times a day about how great it is to shoot up or do an 8-ball? To me it’s the same thing.. destructive information that undermines the potential of someone who can achieve whatever they imagine. Unfortunately, one of the main things that helps fuel the imagination of a young mind is their favorite music artist.
STOP THE HATING, CRABS IN A BARREL MENTAILITY
It would lovely to see us cheer each other on and big up someone who is trying to achieve something. With their lives, their business, their family.. whatever. I try to support new businesses (see rule #1, though), artists, and people as much as possible. I know how it is when I’m trying to grind at something I want to accomplish. While I don’t necessarily need a pat on the head or an attaboy from my peers, I also don’t need someone trying to deter me with negativity that distracts me from my mission. Let’s just encourage others in their endeavors. If they are starting a business in a related industry to yours, find a way that you can do business together and both prosper. If they are playing the sax on a street corner, drop a dollar or two in their case or buy a CD. It matters. If you don’t have anything to contribute to their journey, that’s OK too. Just try not to inject negativity into their vision with discouraging remarks, rumors and backstabbing, or jealousy. Let them spread their wings and keep busy trying to spread yours. One love.
PRAY!! THEN GET UP AND GO DO SOMETHING ABOUT GETTING WHAT YOU WANT
Faith is everything in the Black community. We pray for our families, our needs, to give thanks… we even pray for our enemies. Cool. I’m not the most religious guy around but I do believe that any faith that makes devout believers better people is a direct contribution to society. That said, I think that faith and prayer are only part of the big picture for change in our community. If you want something you’ve gotta get up, get dressed, get out and DO something. Waiting on the Lord can't be the complete answer if the Lord helps those who help themselves. If you want to go to college, ask the Lord to guide your steps toward your goal THEN investigate and apply for grants and scholarships to help get you there. Pray some more. Apply some more. Political Change? Pray about it, then VOTE!! Not just in the presidential elections. If you want change at the local level or state level, you have to participate in those elections too. If your political power could be undermined by rezoning districts SPEAK OUT ABOUT IT!! Put the motion on blast in your neighborhood so folks know this is something that effects them and how it effects them. Same thing about these cops and civilians killing Black citizens like it’s hunting season. I know some feel compelled to pray for the perpetrators and forgive them. I say pray for strength then go out and do something about it. And I don’t mean the press conference on the steps of a church or a candlelight vigil or an apology from police department brass followed by ‘more training’ for police officers. I mean refusing to stand for the trend nationwide. Not the individual instances, but the institutionalized mindset that makes it almost tolerable to kill a Black person. Sometimes you have to take respect. Remember, you didn’t pray for your bullies in grade school did you? What did you do then? Let the killers do some praying for a change.
DIVERSIFY YOUR DREAMS
Everyone would love to be a celebrity actor or rapper or sports figure. The truth is that the percentage of people that actually realize that aspiration vs. the number of people that think it’s their ticket out is very, very slim. Kids need to understand EARLY on that there are options for them in this world. If that means taking the bus out of the hood to go to a museum or a play or a job fair or a Black Entrepreneur's convention downtown, do it. Barrack Obama is a great role model for Black kids but there are also architects, graphic designers, mechanics, bioligists, pilots, IT administrators, geophysicists, real estate agents and any number of opportunities available to our children. Let them know that. Help them find out what their passion is by exposing them to different types of things. And don’t hold it against them if what you select for them isn’t what they love. They may try something the put it down. They need to experiment to see if a hobby might be a career when they grow up.
Most important to me regarding young kids is, read with them. With them. Help them pick books that define possibilities they can achieve. Mix them in with the Harry Potters and Encyclopedia Browns. They don’t have to KNOW your agenda and they won’t as long as the reading is entertaining to them. What they read is as important as if they read. And make reading something enjoyable and not a punishment. In my opinion, this lays the foundation for embracing the notion that the sky is truly the limit.
Also, adults shouldn’t be afraid to jump ship from a job to a career. You can always go back to school at night and rewrite your destiny. This site has a number of articles where people have done that very thing and changed their lives. Just bear in mind, your location is not necessarily your destination. You can do what you love if you are willing to make it happen.
Vernon R. Heard #positiveblack
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