I said “represent,” not “front.”

No profiling. No buzzards. No turkeys. Next.

The Problem

How is it that there are more than 6 billion people in the world today, and there is no one just like YOU, and yet most of us spend the majority of our time trying to emulate or be someone else?  We want to bounce a basketball like Michael Jordan, dance like Michael Jackson, or God forbid, be like Dennis Rodman.  And even if we succeed here, at best we are just a copy. The one thing that no one can compete with is an original, and God made each of us one of those.

This said, we have what seems like an entire black urban culture, and at least a generation of black young men and women, who have bought into a form of purported coolness that comes dangerously close to endorsing intellectual numbness, gang culture, and at base a general F-U disposition towards life. 

A culture that encourages young people, who pay no bills, to “push back” on authority figures (read parents here) who pay all of them.
A culture that in less than 10 years time has unfortunately helped to make it publicly acceptable to interchange a black woman named say Wendy Brown, with a black woman named say, “Bitch.”   

A culture where unlike the well dressed black youth of the mid-20th century, all one needs today is three white t-shirts and two-pair of baggy black pants and Voila – you have what is now called a full wardrobe! One that you cannot wear at IBM, Microsoft or Citigroup I might add.

The Solution

“Watch how you live your lives, because it may be the only Bible that anyone else reads..”

In the 21st century we must become the change we want to see in the world.  How do we expect our children to grow up to be responsible adults when in most cases, they have never seen one of those in action?  “Do what I say but not as I do” does not work here.

If we are going to be urban rap, R & B and pop stars then let’s also recognize that children are not only following and emulating our music, they are emulating US. 

And for those who would say, “hey, I’m just an artist, …I have no responsibility for how kids act, etc., …I am no role model….,”  I would say okay, fine, but then don’t accept the lucrative multi-million dollar “lifestyle” endorsement deals now being offered to you by mainstream brands such as McDonald’s, Microsoft and the like? Yep. Exactly what I thought the response would be…

Bottom line, these prominent companies are offering artists these never-before seen endorsement opportunities precisely because the artists and their representatives, and record companies, have convinced America, and them, that indeed the artist does in fact heavily influence popular culture and lifestyle trends.

Basically, these artists, particularly those involved with edgy, urban rap culture,  have finally convinced corporate America that young people want to be so much like them, black, white and brown youth alike – extending their “brands” beyond music or whatever – that they are willing to follow, purchase and wear anything the artist endorses as cool and necessary.  I don’t know about you, but I would call that a role model all right.
And so, I say to the influence points in the entertainment community – those both in front of the camera and behind the scenes – let’s have a bit of a social contract between us then.  If you are going to get paid, I say cool, I am all for it. But make sure take your role and responsibility as a public figure, and as a ROLE MODEL, at least as seriously.
At least be thoughtful about it. At least, try to do no harm.  Don’t punk the community you came from, simply for the sake of getting paid.  Besides the fact that, I am convinced, “everything that goes around comes around” in life, let’s face it, parents have enough problems these days. They don’t need to come home from a long and frustrating day at work, and have to try to unwind all the nutty ideas you have helped to place in their young, impressionable child’s mind, in addition to the normal drama and trauma involved with raising a child in today’s day and age.
And then… there is, well, everyone else. That’s right – that means you and me friend. Let’s agree to follow a few ground rules if we are going to call ourselves black, African-American, Negro or whatever the phrase is this week for us in America;
1. Don’t be “black for a living.”
2. Say what we mean, and mean what we say.
3. Don’t say through your actions, “do as I say, (but) not as I do..,” and then expect this to actually mean something to our kids. Huh?
4. Be consistent. No one wants to deal with a flake who is a blessing on Monday, a jerk on Tuesday, emotionally unavailable on Wednesday, and mad at you  (for what we never know of course) and expect you to cater to their grangy rear-end on Thursday and Friday!
5. Stop frowning. It’s not attractive and anyway, it takes work to be a jerk. Try smiling. It actually requires almost 5 times less facial muscles to do than frowning.
6. Be positive. Whether a glass is half full or half empty depends on how YOU see it. And whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.
7. Do something. I don’t care whether you become a mentor, or whether you decide to finally talk – and then listen to your children, or whether you do something nice and unsolicited for your parents, or whether you finally decide to actually go the gym. I don’t care what you do, just do something – and make it positive. Tomorrow never comes. That is why they call it “tomorrow.” What are we waiting for?
8. Be a man. Be a woman. Be a parent. Be yourself, and not a caricature of who you think you are supposed to be. Most kids think that a drug dealer on the street corner is a financial planner precisely because they have nothing real, positive and powerful to compare it too!

In short, if you are going to wear and in fact BE, this beautiful hue, culture and history called black America, or black in America, or African-American….then let’s truly REPRESENT.

No excuses, no drama, no profiling.

Thank you much.
Onward with HOPE

P.S. …thanks cousin Zan Roberts and Janice Kimsey for your master editing help here! All love is welcome (smile)

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