When I was growing up, many in my generation made plans to do something work-related with their adult lives. We wanted to be lawyers, doctors and engineers. Some expected to work city, county, state and federal jobs like the post office, the department of motor vehicles or for the water or gas companies.
One reason for this is that we followed in our parents’—and sometimes grandparents’—footsteps. When we didn’t follow in their footsteps it was often because they encouraged us to do better than they had done. They wanted us to be the firsts in our families to graduate high school or college, or even the firsts to own businesses.
When an adult would ask one of us what we wanted to be when we grew up, we’d say proudly: “I want to the president,” or “I want to be an astronaut.” We had faith in the possibilities of what we could accomplish with an education and through plain old hard work. Now, everyone wants to be a rapper or an actor.
Why have we allowed the focus of our communities to change from one of gaining equal opportunities in the workforce to that of a culture that thrives on extreme entertainment value? Especially disheartening about this phenomenon is the fact that we are blessed to live in a time when we have unlimited access to information through the Internet. If we so choose, we can learn and prepare for success in almost any profession known to man. We can even research fields that lack specialists, and fill needs.
Rapping and entertaining have the potential to be fulfilling and respectable careers, however, the many prominent representatives are far cries from the ideal of equality and empowerment for what our predecessors marched, protested and even gave their lives.
Fifty years ago, there were identifiable aims regarding hopes for Black America, and for what future generations could achieve. Our community has produced an African-American President, and this speaks to the potential of our people. What we produce in the future depends on the hopes we pass on to our youth. Within the freedoms echoed by Dr. King in his “I Have a Dream” speech is the abundance of choices that we have today. Let that little young boy and young girl know of all the endless opportunities that lie ahead of them—and help them blaze a trail for Americans to follow.