Surveying the endless crowd of protesters on September 20th, I was struck by the number of young people - dressed in black, shouting, "No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police." I was, admittedly, pleasantly surprised and my faith in our youth was certainly validated by the depth and breadth of their commitment to equal justice for the Jena 6.
I thought back to the many, many radio broadcasts by Al Sharpton and surprisingly, Michael Baisden, that continuously beat down (per Mr. Baisden – challenged) the young who did not fit into their particular mold of decency because of language, lyrics, attire, etc. As an old-head, prior blindly follow-the-rules kind of girl, I’ve always hated the hypocrisy of it all, particularly since kids didn’t just “come upon” any of the afore-mentioned but rather learned them at the knee of many an elder!
The shaming and blaming by this patriarchal society (Black and white) seems to know no end and as Blacks, we should give it a rest because it really doesn’t work. Sooner or later, the unintended consequences of our put-downs and scathing opinions only produces rebellion - and distance we may not have time to make up. At least that’s what I’ve found with my own two sons. There’s a much better approach that yields results: 1) Recognize that just like us, the youth today have a right to explore their own journey. Instead of constantly hammering the DESTINATION, we could: 2) offer our opinions, share our retrospectives and advice 3) explain accountability and the consequences of chosen actions and then, let them step out on faith. If they fail, let’s not beat them over the head with “I told you so.” They’ll, more often than not figure that one out. Whose life is it anyway really?
The number of young people I saw and spoke to in Jena - dedicated, committed to something larger than them, angry and in control, vocal and informed and so damn smart – was so affirming. I know I’m backing the right horse here!
As Gwen and I walked through the crowd, I stumbled into Sunni Patterson. I immediately recognized this powerful, young woman! She’d been on Def Poetry Jam and her poem about the Katrina experience touched me to the depths of my very soul. I asked if I could take her picture because SHE, in my mind, was a celebrity worth photographing.
Her performance had been so hot, and so spoke to the injustices Black folk continue to experience - it sent chills up and down my spine. She smiled and said, “Yes Ma’am and Thank you.” Imagine that - a young person, not only with manners, but humility - chew on that, Rev. Al, et al!
I met some Baby Deltas at the event after the rally - beautiful, young Black women who could easily have been my own children (After all, I’d pledged 31 years ago!). I was proud to be their soror as they represented themselves, their people, their school and their sorority with unabashed fun, grace and style. All the Greek organizations were represented. Kids from 2 – 20 were there. What a memory they will all have when we’re dead and gone. I have faith in the future of our young people. We all should, because they know what time it is.