I Don't Think He Had This In Mind
Today, we pay respects to a legacy that has almost been tarnished some 55 years after his death. Some would argue that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was the last great black leader, others say he was the last great leader of a generation. However you wish to spin it, I am truly saddened at how far away we've gotten from King's potent words of wisdom. Sure, I can go ahead and list a bunch of MLK quotables to honor his great name on the day we celebrate him as a nation, instead, I'd like to pinpoint a couple of recent isolated incidents involving young men leaving me angered and outright confused. When will some of us will ever get it?
I probably shouldn't expect much from those born into the 1990s and thereafter. If that comment bothers you, I suggest you remove your blinders and pay attention to your immediate surroundings. Unless you're a Type A Personality type who craves knowledge, history and over-standing the way of the world, Millennials (and others) are decades removed from an era where men like King paved the way for a better America. Many will never know the feeling of racial segregation, senseless hose spraying and vicious attacks by ruthless dogs. All we have left are images and stories from those who are old enough to remember that dark period of this country's history. Despite the sporadic heinous murders of brown men by those in law enforcement; paid to protect & serve, joined by the questionable behavior of those who continue to get a kick out of uttering the N-word and antagonizing people of color, our world today still doesn't compare to what many endured in the south during the civil rights era and before. As years progressed, regardless of how we feel in 2019, opportunity does exist for all (albeit it's broken down into tiers to avoid blatant prejudice experienced in years past). With that said, I expect better from anyone reaping the benefits of that same opportunity thousands died for. The same opportunity MLK put his life on the line for whenever he delivered a heart-felt message. Yet, when I watch the current generation's obsession with gang culture and everything else, I am blown away when that list includes multi-millionaires; the one-percentile, the people we'd expect to be above that.
We've learned over the years about rappers/entertainers and their affiliations with gangs. Oftentimes, when you've become a product of your environment, there's really no escaping it - rich or not. But what about when you're far removed from that environment (or haven't grown in that environment at all), basking in the limelight, enjoying a healthy bank account and luxurious lifestyle? Why then would there be a need to become an "overnight gangster?" I felt my ire rise after watching rappers Bow Wow, Soulja Boy, Cardi B (the lone female of my ire), along with NBA player, Marcus Smart, announce their gang ties to the world. That's correct, Bow Wow! I had mixed emotions listening to Bow Wow (real name: Shad Moss) yell "On Piru!" (a well-known set from the L.A. Bloods gang) at the 0:09 mark. Part of me wanted to laugh, thinking I'd just finish watching a comedy sketch, the other half felt like I'd just watch a dramatic plea for help.
Most of us remember Bow Wow (formerly Lil' Bow Wow) as the cute kid who took the music industry by storm after his 2000 debut hit album, "Beware of Dog" captivated children, catapulting him to mainstream success. Many of you us were too old for his music, yet we witnessed Bow Wow influence a generation of kids and watched him grow into a man. Now 31, Bow Wow should be held accountable for his recent attempt to insult our intelligence (declaring his gang affiliation) and it shouldn't be tolerated by OG's - in this case, the older generation. Someone in his camp desperately needs to pull him aside.
Can just about anyone join a gang these days? Sure. The question I have for Bow Wow, Soulja Boy, Marcus Smart and others is: since when? and why?! Why come into millions of dollars, fame - the stuff Average Joe's and Jane's dream about - only to renounce it in an effort for street cred? Why not use this platform to your advantage instead of risking it all, dealing with questions of authenticity and becoming a punchline for jokes from people like me? Who in their right mind would be intimidated by Bow Wow, Cardi B, Soulja Boy or a player throwing up gang signs - someone who attended college, currently earning a 7-figure income? (watch 1:03 mark). Does the latter sound like a gang banger to you? If anything, these same individuals have made a mockery of gang culture and that upsets me. Why? Because they have choices. Their income and lifestyle enables them to escape the hardships of street life. They can stay far away from the hood. Furthermore, their paycheck allows them to keep their affiliations to themselves (the way others have; see D.L. Hughley) because the general public really doesn't need to know. No one cares! In the age of social media, it has become everyone's job to share everything. Even senseless acts. But something to keep in mind when you're attempting to become an overnight gangster - think about those who are less fortunate. Think about those who join street gangs because they don't know of another way to survive. Think about those who have never traveled outside of their city or state. Think about the ones who were born into gang culture because it was an essential part of their lineage, ingrained in their DNA. Think about the men and women who have actually traded bullets in the streets. Why mimic a lifestyle many everyday people can't escape? Why wait until you've become an established brand, someone who has sat in board rooms with high-level execs signing major contract deals to suddenly announce your gang ties? Why wait until you've become a platinum-selling artist, having traveled the world? Why wait until you've made a couple of bucks to confidently throw up hand gestures in an all out rage on national TV? If entertainers are so desperate in becoming street soldiers, unwilling to separate these contrasting lifestyles, why not relinquish your riches and live the life you truly desire to live? Who's stopping you? What's stopping you?! In the words of the great Big Daddy Kane, 'Ain't No Half Steppin.' Why have one foot in the door of entertainment, the other in the streets? Pick one. Your move.
The fact that this subject matter isn't discussed on a broader platform is concerning enough. Perhaps, people really don't care (or have chosen not to take these entertainers seriously). Clearly, MLK's "Free at Last" message was lost in translation from a group of misguided lost souls; lost souls who derived from a generation of little leadership - parental or public. The individuals I've named aren't free, in fact, they're trapped in a sorry state of mind, oblivious to their privileged lives, unbothered by their acts of unexplained behaviors, unmoved by an iconic figure's impact to the world. This is more than a "day off" or a "holiday," it's a day of reflecting, as we remember a world we used to live in and a man who took a bullet striving to make it a better place. Why wouldn't we want to do better?