For months now, many have remained glued to various news sources and Twitter feeds in an attempt to keep up with the varying accounts of protests that have now spread into a movement stating that #blacklivesmatter across the country. Many discussions began in sadness, peaked with rage, then calmed down with exhaustion. The tiresome battle to logically understand why certain citizens do not receive the same protection as others, why law enforcement may work harder to justify police brutality, or why justice is not always insured for all is an upsetting reality that many face.
During this time, there has been a rise of significant opportunities to take solace in scholarship to provide clarity regarding the unfortunate events surrounding Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and John Crawford. In the wake of such tragedies, people are able to see these isolated incidents as more than an act of individual malice, but rather the result of a longstanding cultural weakness. And, while this does not remedy the pain, it does make room for a wider discussion about the ways young black men are perceived in the mainstream media. The collective intent is to develop a point of view that acknowledges them as people with compelling stories that extend beyond tragedies, and look to then open up their experiences in a way that introduces a wide audience to the complexities that young black men are responsible for maneuvering.
While the media is often quick to label everything Black Hip Hop, as Questlove lamented in his 6-part Vulture series, there is something powerful that commands attention when this term is used to explore the inner lives of young Black men. The closer study of Hip Hop through the lens of literature and storytelling forces a wider American audience to both discover and address the socioeconomic and racial disparities that often shape the art form.
Artists earn credibility by speaking about the realities of their culture, community, and lifestyle. Whether that results in challenging injustice and the disadvantages of classism, aspiring to own gold chains and cars, or destroying the system that refuses to validate your worth, Hip Hop functions best when it is a tool that tackles topics related to widespread oppression. When reputable publications delve into such an important and influential art form, they ultimately reveal that these young black men who speak for the culture share similar life experiences that connect with other struggles being faced throughout the country. Hip Hop gives people an opportunity to speak for themselves, while being empower to control the conversation and how it’s discussed. When respected publications explore the depths of the genre, they uncover more common themes that immediately serve to make these young Black men more relatable to society at-large.
When extensive Hip-Hop scholarship is practiced in the mainstream media, it elevates the art and highlights its cultural significance for all of America, not just “Black” America. It demonstrates the value of contributions young Black men make to the entire cultural lexicon. The same aspiring or established rap stars of today reflect the diversity that mirrors reality. Some rappers are businessmen, some are actors, and some are simply MC’s, while others are a combination of all these things. But, they all work diligently at their craft and are important voices for a large segment of the population that is often silenced.
Perhaps the continued exploration of one of America’s most influential genres will ultimately benefit, not damage the cases of young black men gone too soon. Hip-Hop scholarship highlights the importance of Black men’s lives in a broader perspective. One that showcases their humanity, one that encourages the media to praise them for being themselves, all while producing work that is worthy of scholarship, thoughtful discussion and thorough analysis. Education is a key that unlocks opportunity, prosperity and enlightenment. Three things young Black men, and this nation overall, need to stay alive and achieve the American dream of making your own way with ingenuity, integrity and creativity.
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Emery Desper is an essay writer from Seattle, lover of music and student of Literature. Her work has been featured on Revolt.tv. Follow her on twitter @ yreme_