There was a time when being ‘hoodrich’ was the thing to be. No Limit Records and Cash Money Records were at the top of the music game and personified the term. They could probably be categorized as proliferators of the idea. But actor and activist Jesse Williams gave an amazingly authentic and timely speech at the 2016 BET Awards, and whether folks agreed with him or not, he’s got people talking. Part of his speech particularly stood out to me:

“Now, the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money that alone isn’t going to stop this. Alright? Now, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back. To put someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid with brands for our bodies. There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There’s no tax they haven’t levied against us. And we pay all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. You’re free, they keep telling us, but she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so free.”

Williams was speaking to the mostly wealthy (or at least well-to-do) celebrity audience, and I appreciated him addressing his peers directly about the way we engage money as a people. Celebrity engagement has probably the deepest implications among our generation, as everyone tries to keep up with the proverbial “Joneses” now more than ever. Check out Urban Dictionary’s definition of ‘hoodrich‘ and ask yourself: Does this sound like anyone I know? Does this sound like ME? Although several accounts continue to report the consistent increase of black buying power, we have to ask ourselves what we’re doing to strengthen our own financial state. It’s not enough to have a Michael Kors bag with nothing in it, and what does it mean when you’re rocking Manolo Blahniks, but can’t keep your phone on?

Trying to look cute for one another for no other reason than some vapid attempt at social status is cancelled.

You might not be able to buy a mansion, but you can work toward the financial literacy that can lead to home ownership. That’s one way to combat gentrification. You might not be able to build a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood right now, but you can create a community garden and stop buying fast food. You might not be able to afford that Michael Kors bag, but you can recycle your black dollars with lots of black-owned businesses. Then, there’s the one thing many of us avoid:

You can stop spending money you don’t have.

The thing is, we all want to look good. We all want to feel good. We all want to have things. And what this boils down to is long-term planning and discipline. I totally get the psychology behind having nothing for so long that when you finally DO get something, you want to floss. You must stunt. Stuntin’ is a habit. But it’s a bad habit that can keep us in a position of disenfranchisement. So, although we fight the good fight to break down the systemic and institutional barriers that were built for our detriment and destruction, we can also fight the war with ourselves that says we have to “keep up.” Being hoodrich is played. In the epic words of Queen Bey, “don’t play yourself.”

Photo: HBO

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