Tuesday, March 14, 2006

American Hunger Part 1

"Their constant outward-looking, their mania for radios, cars and a thousand other trinkets made them dream and fix their eyes upon the trash of life, made it impossible for them to learn a language which could have taught them to speak of what was in their or others' hearts. The words of their souls were the syllables of popular songs."  ~ Richard Wright, Black Boy (American Hunger)

I thought of this passage from Richard Wright as I observed our young people as I was riding the bus this morning. They all had their headphones blasting into their ears the sounds of the Top Ten from 106 & Park. They were oblivious to all that was around them and I imagined that their only goal was to get through this day without a teacher "sweating" them or asking them a question. (Thank God) I am not talking about all of them because there are some bright young people in the classroom that are going to do well in life. However, an overwhelming number are slipping into darkness. Their world is pitch black and all that they seem to relate to are beats. They can explain the beats and recite the lyrics to you verbatim. I don't have a problem with that because my generation (30-40 somethings) were at the forefront of the Hip-Hop scene. In 1984 I was grooving to Run DMC and UTFO. In 1988, I could recite the Jungle Brothers tape, Straight Out The Jungle, from start to finish. I grew up listening to the pioneers, and we were having a party with the likes of Kool DJ Herk, The Sugar Hill Gang, and Grandmaster Flash with Melle Mel. Well, we now know that Hip Hop has gone far over the edge and has entered into another dimension. The problem with its audience is that some of them can recite Mobb Deep, but they read on a 5th grade level at the age of 17. They can perform and do all the latest dances, but when it's time to perform on that math test they don't have a clue. They are falling short and it's not only going to hurt them, but the residual affects of it is going to fall back on us (parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and society). Who really cares? There are some in the government who try, but the rest could care less. The record companies and media damn sure don't care. They are going to continue to promote what sells. So, while the government, president, and record company executives continue to distance themeselves from our problems with their "getaways" and fabulous homes in The Hamptons, we will still be here trying to undo the miseducation of our young as they continue to bounce and bob their heads to the award winning song, "Whoop That Trick!"

Photo Source:  haroldshull.com


MJW said...


When you bold the word our, are you referring specifically to African Americans? I think I should ask that first so I know whether I'm qualified to comment.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Definitely not. I meant America's children. We're all children of the soil and we're all affected by what's going on around us. It reaches out into the far distant suburbs and hills. :)
Seriously, I don't think that I would ever post anything that is exclusive to African Americans. Consider yourself a blog friend that can say what is on his mind. I'm here to learn.

Stephen A. Bess said...

It pays to reread your own blog because I read this over and found all kinds of problems with punctuation, subject & verb agreement, etc.). lol :)

Anonymous said...

Wow!! great post, I am actually wondering when you will publish your work. I mean in a book form... :)

"When you bold the word our, are you referring specifically to African Americans? I think I should ask that first so I know whether I'm qualified to comment"

MJW - I am definately not picking on you :)I would not dare. However, I would like to add my .5 cent if it's okay with you. I truly believe that until we are all free, no one is really free. I found that inclusive term "Our" very sobering, it reminds each one of us that no matter who, and where we are in life/earth we are responsible for our own actions. However, fate dictates that we will be directly, or indirectly affected by the actions of others as well. Therefore it is incumbent upon all of us to make the world a better place for ourselves, and our children. Sorry this is sooo long-drawn..I hope it makes some sense

Bougie Black Boy said...

Very well written. I would have loved if you expanded on this. I can definitely see this as an article of some sort, published in Ebony.

At a young age, I realized I could memorize words from songs.Unlike the youth of america, I tried to use that as an advantage, instead of hoping to be a rapper and the inability to add 2+2.

I think that we have talented youth. BUT, talent wanes if we don't know what to do with it or have the proper guidance.

NML/Natalie said...

Brilliantly written post Stephen. I am full of admiration for you again. These children have misplaced values and priorities. They admire people who haven't spent much time in a classroom so the concept of improving their reading age or passing exams is beyond them, because they think they don't need it to get rich. It's very sad really but I'll be damned if my kids end up like this.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thank you for espounding on what I was trying to convey to Michael.

Thanks. I've been looking into doing some freelance work. I am going to continue to look.
Also, I agree with what you said about our youth today. They are talented, but they REALLY need guidance.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thank you. :)
I like the way that you broke that down. They don't understand that the chances of them making it as a Hip Hop star or street hustler are slim.

Shaggy said...

Wassup Steve, guess who's back in town.

Thanks for looking out. Hey have a good one buddy as spring starts to slowly come around.

Time to hit the gym.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Brother J-
Thanks for giving me a shout. Take it slow on those curls at the gym. :)
Yes, I'm really looking forward to spring.

the prisoner's wife said...

so true.

i am on the verge of being a secondary English teacher & i'm scared at what i will find. through tutoring, i already know that we are up agaist something fierce. as someone who LOVES music & has been changed and influence by it so much (illmatic changed my life), i can only hope that there is an artist brewing that will come through and inspire the yonger kids (God, i sound old). but it is up to us, parents/sisters/brothers/aunts/neighbors to fill in the gaps & help them along when no one else will.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with the sentiments of your post. Alot of these problems are no longer exclusive to the black race in America and are seeping into mainstream America. It is only when it becomes everyone's problem is when people will stop seeing it as a black problem.
And as you said, we have to look to ourselves for the solution.

Black Men in Life Space: A Change for the Better

Photo Source: Showtime The late great Chicago soul singer, Sam Cooke sang and announced that "A Change is Gonna Come." On season f...