Last week, a new ad for Nivea lotion came out in print showing a Black man with a fade and clean-shaven, what the dominant culture would call “clean cut,” holding a another head, his own head donned in an Afro and with a beard.
The clincher: The ad says, “Re-civilize Yourself.” No they didn’t!
This is what I am talking to us about — we can’t afford to sleep, or count on a few freedom fighters, or put the work on the few Black leaders who really lead. We have to get involved.
We have to risk it to win. We have to turn to Black solutions to save our most vulnerable, our children. Can I count on you?
James Baldwin (debating William Buckley on the question “Is America at the expense of the American Negro?”) said, “By this time you are 30 and you realize looking at your children, your nieces and nephews, that nothing you have done, nor nothing you can do, will keep this fate from befalling your children and grandchildren.”
Baldwin was absolutely right, and this reality, our reality today (so Nivea reminds us), is dead wrong. No more sitting on the sidelines, you — yes, I am speaking to you. The whole village must stand up, and stand up together, or our grandchildren’s grandchildren will suffer this same fate.
Twelve, 14 and 18… These are the ages of three of our babies who paid, absolutely senselessly, in blood. Twelve and 14 — two beautiful lives who will never again be with us here on earth, who won’t have children, whose dreams are unknown and undocumented.
These two lives received two minutes of news coverage for two or three days, two lives now lost, two names that might never be known in our future. Our babies, face down on concrete, draped in the coroner’s sheet, no breath — paid with their lives. For what?
Three of our babies, dead and gone in the span of a weekend, and I am challenged to think, “What will it take? A please? A plea? A beg? Whatever it is, please tell me or more of our futures will lie on concrete forever unrealized.
How does a baby die in the street, the victim of gun violence? He dies alone, save for the shooter. A 12-year-old died alone. His father working to feed them, and his baby, our baby, is gone.
What will it take for the Black elite to use your positions and your titles and your influence in high places to stand up and embrace the movement for Black betterment? When will the poverty pimps stop pimping, stop funding temporary supports and generate jobs instead? When will our Black leadership (often self-appointed and self-described) stand up and stop chumping out?
Our 12-year-olds pay in blood, lie on concrete, their only companion the coroner’s sheet when we support “initiatives” that help us sleep at night but don’t save our babies; when we support “community outreach” but realize we have little connection to the village; when, as Dr. King so aptly described in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, we’ve “adjusted.”
Eldridge Cleaver is a name that every Black child should know. Whether or not we agree with his views, he is erased from American history, and so our babies don’t know. They can’t form identities that see beyond the environment of hopelessness someone else created for them.
If you listen to Tupac Shakur and his music, you can deepen your understanding of recent history. My beautiful friend Georgia (KMOJ personality and so much more!) hipped me to this just yesterday. Whatever your generation, forget your definition of music and dig the lyrics — listen and learn.
Tupac said it best: “There are two kinds of Blacks, those born BC and those born AC.” He goes on to explain that BC and AC refer to before and after crack.
We need to do a personal search and take a fearless moral inventory, the fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is not the surface review we do of ourselves to sleep at night, to maintain our self-esteem, but the kind of inventory that reaches deep into our recesses.
We need to access the spirit that calls us to be our brother’s keeper, to recall the price our ancestors — and now our babies — are paying for (what too many of us really believe is) our freedom in their blood.
I can’t stand it any more. Can you?
Can you dig it?
Hear Lissa Jones’ radio show “Urban Agenda” on 89.9 KMOJ-FM Thursday nights at 6 pm, stream her live at www.kmojfm.com, or read web posts from Lissa at www.kmojfm.com. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.