The young brother impressed me. A lot.
Not just because he complemented me on my t-shirt which was detailed with a large photograph of Tupac. But because when I condescendingly told him that he was too young to know, much less comprehend who Tupac really was, the extent of his talent and his impact on a generation (his parents probably being counted among them), he responded with supreme confidence and a bevy of articulated biographical facts.
Then, when I revealed I once interviewed Tupac, his eyes opened with curiosity and awe, which faded when I mentioned that the rapper had dirty fingernails and burnt fingertips. But his frown quickly turned to a smile in acknowledgment of what that description implied.
Those facts did not deflect from who the rapper was.
To top off the brief—albeit enthralling conversation—he declared matter-of-factly that, “I was born in the wrong generation,” a reference that he missed out on the beginning of the hip-hop era, as well as a generational cultural shift that provided a blueprint for today’s society.
Before he could explain himself, I blurted out: “The Chinese have a saying: ‘may you be born in exciting times.’
“You are lucky to be a part of the most exciting time in world history, whether you realize it or not. You will be part of a movement that will change the world for the better.”
I then told him how lucky he was, and how jealous I was. I’ve lived through several generations, and each had its own high and low points. Each was exciting in its own right, but the future may be the best.
I further said his wisdom at such a young age—he couldn’t have been more than 11-years-old—and his desire to be a change agent, as pronounced by his respect for Tupac’s socially conscious poetry, brought joy to my heart.
“You will be a member of the ‘Talented Tenth’.”
I confirmed my observation several minutes later when I met the young brother’s mother, who was supervising the reception for the Medical College’s Cancer Advisory Committee held at the Sherman Phoenix last Thursday.
His mother said the young man was astonishingly brilliant. He was a past winner of the Martin Luther King, Jr. oratory contest and has keynoted several programs around the community.
Yes indeed, I was impressed. And gratified to discover that this young man would be a leader in the immediate future.
Indeed, I’ve met several young brothers and sisters of late, all members of what we loosely call the Millennial Generation, who give me hope for our future.
They may all become the disciples W.E.B. Du Bois named the “Talented Tenth”—a concept rooted in the theory that 10% of our community are destined to lead. Some will be politicians, or doctors and lawyers.
Others will be community leaders. Still others will teach or run businesses. All will contribute in various ways to advance our community; empowering and enriching our tribe.
Thus, I am confident, that my generation’s battles for civil rights, will morph into an empowerment campaign that will align with a cultural crusade that will focus on our remaining deficits—silver rights and education equality and options, and a cultural renaissance.
But these new leaders must be armed. Not with guns or incendiary weapons, but with an acknowledgement and understanding of their roots, and a keen cognizance of their history.
They must know and appreciate the struggles of their ancestors, including those whose skeletons line the floor of the Atlantic Ocean— proud, free warriors who would rather die than be chained.
Equally, the new leaders must learn and be proud of those who survived the Middle Passages only to be victimized by the worse form of slavery conceived in human history.
The most recent inductees into the Talented Tenth must empower themselves through the knowledge that our ancestors survived the Maafa, laying the foundation for this country.
They accomplished so much, even as our mothers were raped and our ancestral fathers were tortured, castrated and psychologically made impotent. Those strong enough to survive the civil war, were emancipated to confront a system of apartheid that continues to this day.
Thus, the “TT’s” must know why my generation– having fought through the civil rights era– hate the sight of the Confederate Flag, the monuments of the civil war and “Southern hospitality,” as well as the racist epithet “nigger” (n-word) and what they collectively represent.
The young brother and his peers must know of the civil rights struggles and the thousands of heroes and sheroes not named King or Parks.
They must understand why the public school systems doesn’t teach them about the contributions and great leadership of Martin Delaney, Frederick Douglass, and Marcus Garvey. Or, of the latter-day leaders including H. Rap Brown, Franz Fanon, Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Huey P. Newton, Fannie Lou Hammer, and Shirley Chisholm.
We must encourage them to read the literature that defined our history— our Sankofa. There is power in the words of Dubois, Wright, Brooks, Hughes, Brown, Baldwin, Madabuti and Woodson.
Inside the cover of those books are a sorted history, telling of our great contributions, but also of our struggles against oppression. They will reveal the dozens of Black Wall Street massacres, as well as the institutionalization of a new world (racism) order and paradigm of White Supremacy.
And, of course, they must appreciate, if not dance to, the music that originated from our slave cabins: jazz, blues, R&B, Soul, and Hip Hop.
In a related category, they must be taught about those poets who preceded Tupac and the gangsta rappers and brought forth powerful messages that inspired and empowered.
Use the internet to liberate and empower yourself through the word of Gil Scott Herron, Sonya Sanchez, the Last Poets and Nikki Giovanni. They planted the seeds for young brothers like Milwaukee’s own Muhibb Dyer and Kwabena Antoine Nixon, Dasha Kelly and Mikey Apollo.
They all sway to the beat of the African drum, which is the collective heartbeat of the Motherland.
Yes, young brother, learn the message beyond the beat, its link to Nyame (God) and why we have rhythm.
Most importantly, the new Talented Tenth must learn where they came from, and of the bloodlines that link them back to the source— back to the Motherland, the site of mankind’s origin.
If their parents haven’t taught them, they must go out and acquire truth.
Among those lessons they will discover the first human was of a Black woman, whom White anthropologists (that makes it reliable, particularly to those Negroes who believe white ice is colder) named Lucy (she probably should have been named Shekesha) discovered in Africa and whose remains date back 3.2 million years.
Lucy belongs to the species Autralopithecus afarensis (which I assume means she was a sister).
A later discovery was of another African found in Ethiopia also dated 3.2 million years ago, which might have been a relative of Sequita— probably named Uncle Remus, or cousin Rufus.
Most importantly, those discoveries solidify the fact there is but one race—the Hueman race—that originated in the Motherland, and all who came after were the products of those seeds.
It also implies if there was a Garden of Eden, our ancestors occupied it, meaning we are Nyame’s Chosen.
That’s a heavy burden to carry, but one that serves as a sturdy foundation from which the Talented Tenth must go about their lives.
I hope I have an opportunity to reiterate to the young brother he is about to go on an amazing journey and hopefully, and unlike most of my generation, he has the resources and information to complete the cycle we contributed to.
Yes, indeed, he is lucky to live in an exciting time. One that even Tupac would have appreciated.