I dreamed that I opened my eyes one morning and all of America was wide awake. I dreamed that I could hear the echoes of the Bush/Cheney consortium desperately proclaiming their innocence from deep within the Hague, but the world had long since stopped listening. I dreamed that Rush, O’Reilly, and FOX News had imploded into a metaphor for latter-day McCarthyism, and the phrase corpo-congressional alliance was a new vulgarity that had become a part of the American lexicon.
I dreamed that I walked through the hood (which had been redefined the community), and the only crooked caps and untied sneakers I saw were worn by two-year-olds, and the only saggin’ pants were due to unattended diapers. Yes, there was still hip hop, but the lyrics were literate, and the new message proclaimed that if you wanted to be hip, hop into a book.
I saw young Black families sitting in the park, with proud and respectful Black men fawning over beaming young women. These young men took pride in opening doors and standing up when their women entered the room, teaching their young sons by example what it really meant to be cool.
Michael Jackson was still remembered as an icon, but his significance to the Black community was placed very carefully into perspective. While he was held up with great esteem for being the very best at what he did, what he did was never confused with the best that our community had to offer.
It was clearly understood that Michael’s greatness was based on his excellence, and to be excellent in any endeavor deserved recognition. But it was also clearly understood that while he was an excellent entertainer, entertainment represented the toy department of life.
The Black community had totally reassessed its priorities. We rewarded our children for the ability to think above all else. Instead of waking young Johnnie to show Uncle Willie how well he could sing and dance, he was awakened to show his uncle how well he could do calculus, even as sleep still clung to his young eyes. And instead of crowding into basketball courts to see Johnnie’s three point shot, the community crowed into science fairs to applaud the brilliance of his electromagnetic propulsion system.
Johnnie was a genuine superstar in the community, and the young girls flocked to his side. They’d been raised from birth to understand that Johnnie represented the future of America. They’d been taught to see through the few swaggers who were left who professed to “keeping it real.” They saw the swagger for what it was–a farcical mask to hide ignorance and insecurity, and a prelude to deadbeat parenthood and irresponsibility.
These young girls were under no illusion. They understood that all of them wouldn’t be lucky enough to fall in love with a young man of Johnnie’s brilliance, but it wasn’t brilliance alone that would insure their future–character was the key.
They understood that happiness wasn’t based on materialism, and that swagger, flashy cars and bling was a blazing red flag that screamed of a young man’s misplaced priorities. They were also taught from birth that swaggering flamboyance was a sure sign of frivolity. What impressed them was a young man willing to catch the bus with a sack lunch in order to feed his family.
This epiphany in the community came about as a result of the near collapse of the school system. After buying into the conservative scam of educational vouchers, the exodus from the public school system resulted in its near collapse. It would have been a complete calamity had the private school system not played their hand too soon.
About three years into the voucher program, the private system thought, prematurely, that they were comfortably entrenched. So they began to raise their tuition far beyond what the poor and middle class could afford. In addition, many of our children came home speaking in tongue, and spouting fundamentalist dogma. As a result, many of the overburdened and horrified parents tried to return their children to the public system. But as a result of three years of under-funding the public system couldn’t handle the number of returning students. That led to a crisis that opened the public’s eyes to how they’d been let down and manipulated by their so-called representatives.
That turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened, however. It caused the community to become enraged, but it also caused them to become engaged in their own welfare. The first thing they did was recalled all but the most community oriented incumbents from office, and replaced them with a group of politicians that clearly understood that if they failed to serve the people, no amount of lobbying funds would be able to keep them in office.
Then, in order to assist the public school system, parents pledged to take an active role in the education of their children. Thereafter, as a result of parents trying to help their kids with their homework, they found that they were being reeducated themselves. And for those parents who couldn’t help their children, their children gained a renewed motivation to learn through the opportunity to help educate their parents.
With this new sense of empowerment, the community began to insist that BET and other businesses, organizations, and individuals who had preyed on the dysfunction of the community, begin to contribute to the community’s new sense of empowerment. So now, instead of the BET Awards repeatedly rewarding the same old entertainers swaggering up to the stage time after time, those same entertainers played a secondary and appropriate role–as entertainment for the young scholars and community leaders who were being honored for their positive impact on the community.
The fact is, it became a much better program, because now, when the entertainers are even allowed to speak, their forced to search for something intelligent to say. And on that rare occasion when one did think that ignorance was cute, the contrast and deafening silence that he’d get in response was an excellent example to show our youth that there was nothing hip about being stupid. It just leaves looking silly.
And finally, the community did one other thing that was quite positive–it told all of the poverty pimps and photo hogs to stop trying to speak for the community unless they’d been elected to do so.
Oh, what a dream!