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So What? Now What? A Message to Teens

February 8, 2013
Douglass High School

    When a race of people endures slavery, rises from oppression and still manages to miraculously have one of its own serve as the leader of the free world, how then is it possible for that race to be viewed in a negative light? How is it possible for that race to not use what they have learned from the past to propel them towards a better future?

      It appears that today, the descendants of African kings and queens do not understand their glorious heritage. There is only one question to be raised. Why? Is it the media's portrayal of the race? Is it the self-inflicted stereotypes and hatred that plague the race?     

      Regardless of where the finger is pointed, it is time to revive a legacy of power... a legacy that refused oppression, a legacy that rose despite all obstacles, a legacy that began with our ancestors, but must be sustained by our youth.

     Upon arrival to this land, our ancestors were forced into a way of life that they did not choose. Their feelings were never even considered, but to falter was not an option. Once the battle for our freedom ended, equality became the focus and it was to be gained "by any means necessary" as Malcolm X once said. It is now the year 2013 and there have been many gains for African Americans as evidenced by the first African American President; however, we must ask ourselves the questions, "So what? Now what?"

     It is time for a new “Age of Enlightenment” for our race and for our youth. It is time to strategically plan our next steps. Consider all of the African American stereotypes that suggest that our race consists of unfit fathers, loud women filled with anger, lazy men, illiterate communities and the excessive incarceration of African American males. Let those stereotypes motivate you to do and be the exact opposite. The African American war no longer emanates from an outside faction. “The Man” of today is often the Man in the Mirror.

     Now is the time to spread positivity and respect. We must use our minds. A body without a mind is just a vessel; an empty vessel searching for influences in hopes of fulfillment through imitation. If we really want to excel and be seen as the powerful people that our ancestry proves that we are, it is time for change. The education that our ancestors were robbed of, must be the education that we seek to attain. Now is the time to take advantage of and indulge ourselves in the education that our teachers work so hard to provide. We must put an end to our internal warfare because we know that when divided we fall. Treat everyone as a friend and watch our communities and schools blossom. We are composed of potential and historical greatness. Nothing can hold us down.

         To that end, negativity must cease. Negative perceptions of African Americans have become the shackles of suppression for this generation. These perceptions must be eradicated to ensure the mental emancipation of our generation and future generations. Because we are a race of people that is used to fighting against oppression, it seems that now that we finally have our freedom and feel a sense of equality, we have lost reason to proceed forward. Remember from whence you came, remain conscious in this world, and be as productive as you can possibly be.

        If a stereotype reflects who you truly are and you are unwilling to make improvements, then remain as you are. This is not a plea to change who you are. This is a plea to improve what you can for a greater cause. Times may not be as turbulent as the previous times in our history, but the stakes are just as high. Our futures hang in the balance and are being shaped by what we do today. Now is the time to rise and unify into a race of respect and longevity. Now is the time to plot our next course. Be positive and live on as one. The years ahead are to be poetically just and prosperous. Know that there is no goal too far away to reach. If history has proven anything, it is that when African Americans are unified the possibilities are limitless.

by Devion Lewis, Class of 2014


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