When I stand at a bus stop in the Austin area of Chicago’s West Side, staring at a 6-foot-tall beer advertisement, my soul stirs.
When I hear Mayor Daley express his sentiments over 22 shootings and seven killings in 12 hours but then talk about how teachers are being laid off, I cringe. Or when the murder rate in Chicago is up 16 percent since the same time last year, I want to cry. These pictures relay a hopelessness that incapacitates the desire to reach beyond the imaginary confines of the ghetto.
The images seen in impoverished communities perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
Where are the images of W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Ralph Ellison, Haki Madhubuti, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and countless others? Those whose intellectual capacities raised the awareness of the suffering human condition?
It is easy to pontificate about the negative behavior rampant in the inner cities. The posed solutions remain buried under the billion-dollar industries of mass media. The use of African-American made jingles to bolster consumerism and advocate instant gratification trumps work ethics of earlier freedom pioneers.
If you wish to adjust the mentality of young black men and women in the ghettos of America, you must first embed subliminal messages of hope, education and freedom-a sense of involvement within the democratic process from the aldermen to the White House.
Education must be the very blueprint to success. Not just any education, but one that highlights the global African influence. They should also understand the unique position and history of African Americans. This resistance is not unique to the current generation, but the media has done a pretty good job of isolating them from their elders. Before they know how to read, children must see the conceivable change.
In his 1993 book “Race Matters” Cornel West writes: “The urgent problem of black poverty is primarily due to the distribution of wealth, power, and income – a distribution influenced by the racial caste system that denied opportunities to most ‘qualified’ black people until two decades ago.”
We have not arrived. You want a solution?
Hire B-Boys to paint murals over every negative advertisement in the hood. Bring back Teen Summit and YSB Magazine. I want Lil Wayne, TI, Nicki Minaj, Diddy and Jay Z to start a book of the month club. I want the mentor-to-mentee relationships to compensate for the increase in student-to-teacher ratio. I want the police on foot patrol again.
But what I most desire is for the community to bring back the community. I want to see beautiful black girls smile at the sunshine. I want to see black boys high-five over SAT scores. I want to see different university banners hanging from the porches of proud parents.
I want the self-images of these people to once again bask in the glory of a proud past.
John Fountain III is a reporter and columnist for Austintalks.org