A teacher explains why his students are doing fundraisers to bury their classmates
by Byron L. Smith
I was once employed at a high school that had a group of students who went from classroom to classroom on Monday mornings carrying a big plastic jar with a slot in the lid to collect money to help pay for the funeral of someone who had been senselessly murdered. For three straight Mondays I pushed some money through the slot in the lid of the Burial Fund Jar. On the fourth occasion the jar was brought to my classroom I kept my wallet in my back pocket because I thought to myself, I’m not rich. I’m not a member of Congress. I can’t afford to keep doing this on a teacher’s salary. Young people shouldn’t be killing one another. The school had Bullying Awareness and Conflict Resolution posters plastered on the walls in the halls and within the classrooms and students were routinely counseled on the importance of camaraderie and forging relationships.
On most school campuses enlarged No Bully Zone posters are placed in locations where they can be easily viewed by students. During orientation school counselors place emphasis on reporting acts of bullying and student disagreements that may become volatile but school counselors and posters can’t compete with the messages articulated within today’s rap songs. Children take matters into their own hands because they don’t want to be labeled snitches or punks. Moreover, rappers instruct teen listeners to meet disrespect with violence. However, in hip-hop culture, petty remarks constitute being dissed.
Incidents I’ve encountered on school campuses led me to write a book entitled Memo to the Hip-Hop Community: Our Women and Children Deserve Better. Upon conclusion of the manuscript I pitched query letters to literary agents. One agent replied, “Byron, I’m not ready to blame the world’s problems on rap music.” My book does not blame rap music for the world’s problems. I telephoned the son of a Motown legend to seek support. Upon hearing the title he said, “You’re wasting your time. First, the music industry is going to fight you. As long as rap music is generating millions of dollars there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to stop it and secondly, these kids are supposed to be doing what they’re doing. It’s in the Bible, the Book of Revelations. We’re living in our last days. Instead of trying to pitch a book bashing hip-hop, you should become a student of the Bible.”
I am a student of history. I’ve read history books, slave narratives, and biographies of civil rights activists. If the world didn’t end during the genocides, kidnappings, slavery, rapes, lynching, segregation, apartheid, robberies and murders perpetrated in the past then surely Armageddon isn’t near because the youth are enrapt and brainwashed by rappers. Champions such as Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokely Carmichael, and a host of others told white America that Black people were not supposed to be mistreated. Similarly, we need champions to tell the youth that they are not supposed to allow themselves to be misled by members of the hip-hop community. No one knows when the last days will befall us, but we all know that our youth are not supposed to be disrespectful, violent, materialistic, sexually irresponsible, visionless, and passionless. Moreover, we all know that adults are supposed to provide children with proper guidance, support, encouragement, nurturing, love, and education. Any adult who proclaims that our children are supposed to be disrespectful, violent, materialistic, sexually irresponsible, visionless, and passionless is a defeatist.
Our children don’t need defeatists, they need advocates. They need champions. They need guidance. I read the book Do You! 12 Laws to Access The Power In YOU to Achieve Happiness and Success by Russell Simmons. In my opinion the most important passage in the book is on page 255. The passage reads: Because everything, I mean everything, someone like Jay Z says impacts youth culture in this country. I agree with Russell Simmons. Rappers have a youthful audience and they are impactful. Sadly, the impact today is far more negative than positive. Perhaps rappers don’t know that they are adults. Again, adults are supposed to provide children with proper guidance, support, encouragement, nurturing, love, and education. I recently listened to the song Self Destruction that was recorded in 1989 by a host of rappers. I re-played the song about 20 times consecutively as I wanted to identify the most important passage within the song. Although rappers Heavy D, MC Lyte, and Kool Moe Dee provided empowering lines I concluded that the most important line was uttered by rapper KRS-1. The line is as follows: we got ourselves together so that you could unite and fight for what’s right. In other words, no one is forcing us to do this, we got ourselves together. They were champions. Again, we need champions to tell the youth that they are not supposed to allow themselves to be misled by members of the hip-hop community.
With all the violence in Chicago, New Orleans, Compton, Newark, and other American cities it is surprising that no champions have stepped up. There is no sense of urgency. Our youth need champions. Our youth need public service announcements, specialized commercials intended to change public behavior. Our youth need our students of the Bible, our professional athletes, and our entertainers to give them guidance. Our youth need Bishop T.D. Jakes, Charles Barkley, and Rick Ross to publicly tell them that they are not supposed to be violent and verbally abusive. Our youth need Apostle Frederick Price, LeBron James, and Lil’ Wayne to publicly tell them that they are not supposed to be using the N-word. Our youth need Creflo Dollar, Michael Vick, and Nicki Minaj to publicly tell them that they are not supposed to disrespect women and be sexually irresponsible. Our youth need Rev. Run, Michael Jordan, and Jay-Z to publicly tell them that they are not supposed to be materialistic and irresponsible consumers. Our youth need Joel Osteen, Stephen A. Smith, and T.I. to publicly tell them that they are not supposed to be hopeless and unenthusiastic. The public service announcements should air on television stations, especially BET and MTV, with a frequency that rivals automobile insurance commercials that are in heavy rotation. We need to insure our kids’ futures. It doesn’t matter who comprises the teams, our youth need teams. Even Russell Simmons knows that assembled teams will be impactful. Members of Congress should also be included on teams. Although children can’t vote, members of Congress should act and advocate as if children are loyal campaign contributors.
Funding the public service announcements should not be difficult. After all, many members of Congress, professional athletes, and entertainers are millionaires. Moreover, many students of the Bible are millionaires. They are in the business of saving souls. Participating in and funding the public service announcements will enable them to save souls. This should be a priority because we don’t need our youth walking through the halls of any high school carrying Burial Fund jars. Let’s get to work champions!!! Our children need you!
Byron L. Smith can be reached at Byronlsmith1992@aol.com or (334) 399-1738.
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