As the post-civil rights movement generation, we are entering a new age of Black youth political activism. We have the energy, the technology, and learnt lessons from the 60s that we picked up from the shoulders of our ancestors. However, we are still in the same dark pit as our grandparents and great-grandparents.
We are no longer fighting for the right to vote or for desegregation but for the violence in our communities, police brutality, targeted criminalisation of Black youths, privatised labour camps aka prisons, great economic deficiency, housing issues (gentrification, pollution of our living environment, illegal rent rises by landlords, cuts on welfare and overcrowding), poor education achievements especially amongst the males, student loan debts, high unemployment rates and the disillusionments of the Black youths both in America and Europe. I won’t argue that there is a generation gap. I acknowledge our grandparents paved the way for us by achieving basics human rights but since the 80s our parents and their offsprings (us) have been subjected to a more cunning and institutionalised racist attack.
The main differences are:
a) we have had a “Black” free world leader and there is visibility of the institutional racism
b) and prejudice mainly through social media and mainstream media
The youth on the streets as well as in higher education, community organisations and the corporate world are all not willing to wait on the government anymore to address their concerns or meet their needs, they understand they cannot ask for help from their persecutors for justice, for equality, and for their rights. We are impatient to keep “loving our enemy” and marching to be recognised as human beings because we are continuously marginalised by everyone, from politicians to civil right movement leaders. We are ready to not only look to the ballot to bring about change but to the bullet if extremities of our poor conditions continue. We are the embodiment of “By any means necessary” and unafraid as we have nothing to loose.
The youth on the streets as well as in higher education, community organisations and the corporate world are all not willing to wait on the government anymore to address their concerns or meet their needs, they understand they cannot ask for help from their persecutors for justice, for equality, and for their rights. We are impatient to keep “loving our enemy” and marching to be recognised as human beings because we are continuously marginalised by everyone, from politicians to civil right movement leaders. We are ready to not only look to the ballot to bring about change but to the bullet if extremities of our poor conditions continue. We are the embodiment of “by any means necessary” and unafraid as we have nothing to loose.
Our parents and elders do not want to see their children take to the streets to riot, to go to rallies to disrupt events, or throw bricks at police but since most young people under 18 cannot vote and over 18’s are largely targeted to be victims of the judicial system which mean they have their right to vote revoked, they are ambivalent about politics. We are done with our screams for help hushed by both white liberals and conservatives. We just want to change policies and practices that are dehumanising us e.g. stop and frisk, zero tolerance in schools, mass surveillance in Black neighbourhoods, privatisations of prisons, trialled as adults, and so much more.
Not only are we resisting institutions but also challenging negative stereotypes. Consequently, we are becoming more involved in local political struggles more than ever. Mainstream media have demonised us by our class, age and race daily; as well as the internet is crawling with hateful contents about Black youths. Most of us have inner turmoil as who we are while trying to navigate through life with barriers and institutional hostility. This context of our struggle for identity has most of us turning to conscious Hip Hop/rap music, religious and racial nationalism as an expression for us seeking meaning to be Black. I mean this is not new, look back at the Black Power Movement. Black panthers were mainly marginalised youths that reclaimed their afros, clinched fists in the air and shout “Black power”, wore black leather jackets and berets. Just as it was back then so it is now, we identify our Blackness as a form of resistance to the negative images portrayed by the dominant society.
This is why Hip Hop/Urban culture is strongly tied to us. Most of us either are or know poets, rappers and musicians. Our creative energy is what gives us permission to demonstrate our ideas of what we want as a revolution. Our conscious music is universal and a political educational tool internationalising our struggles. Why do you think Hilary asked for Beyonce and Jay-Z to endorse her in 2016 elections? It is because they know the Black youth will listen. Hip Hop especially brings unity amongst the disenfranchised youth and young adults when it comes to communicating urgent political action and ideologies. This kind of urban culture encourages us to change how we think, organise and act towards our struggles within the community and nationally.
Prolific rappers and singers help us see possibilities of an equitable world. For example, we have N.W.A with their infamous song ‘Fuck tha police’ with lines such as “Fuck the police coming straight from the underground/ A young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown/ And not the other color so police think/ They have the authority to kill a minority/ Fuck that shit, cause I ain’t the one/ For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun/ To be beating on, and thrown in jail”, to Kendrick Lemar’s song and Grammy’s performance of ‘The blacker the berry’ with such memorable lines as “I’m African-American, I’m African/ I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village/ Pardon my residence/ Came from the bottom of mankind/ My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide/ You hate me don’t you?/ You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture/ You’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey/ You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me”.
We are no longer singing songs like ‘We shall overcome’ and ‘A change is gonna come’. We know Black lives matter and we chant it at marches but we are growing tired of walking with our hands up. We want to protect ourselves and get freedom by any means necessary now.
PART 2 tomorrow! Click here to read.