Black Neglect: We have failed our communities, too
By Nichole Richards
The Breakfast Club has become one of the most popular and influential radio shows in the current Hip Hop culture. Hosting a carousel of rappers, singers, actors, politicians, and leaders, the morning show’s interview segments have gone viral and sometimes legendary in their own right. The hosts, particularly break out “star”, Charlemagne Tha god, have the uncanny ability to get individuals to open up while allowing them to plug their upcoming projects to a growing, young Black audience (read: consumers).
Last week’s interview with up and coming rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, known as 21 Savage, seemed poised to take the familiar way of jokes and plugs, but instead emphasized the growing platform of Hip Hop’s new generation of rappers, who carry burdens of trauma from lives of poverty and violence.
A 24-year-old young Black man hailing from the streets of Atlanta, Abraham-Joseph was expelled from middle school in seventh grade for having a pistol. He was selling drugs before starting high school.
“All I used to do was terrorize people,” he admitted in an earlier interview, “There were shoot outs everyday; we went to clubs, fought, and robbed.”
Because his single mother worked multiple jobs, the rapper spent much of his time in the streets, hanging out with older men already decades deep into the drug game. Of course, the world of drugs breeds violence and Abraham-Joseph was eventually shot six times during an ambush, losing one of his best friends and gaining an addiction to painkillers in the process. His friend has not been the only casualty of his lifestyle. In a sad moment during the interview, the rapper lists countless names of family and friends lost to gun violence, including his brother, brother’s mother, another best friend, and his uncle. Abraham-Joseph witnessed the execution-style murder of his uncle first hand at the age of 11.
Surrounded by death, the rapper professed learning how to “deal with it”, admitting to being “numb” to it.
“It’s life though.” He said, “I know what comes with this life and I can’t do nothing about it but accept it if I’m living it.”
He stumbled into making music and is now a fully independent artist, a great and lucrative accomplishment in an entertainment industry where artist are typically under creative and financial contractual constraints. He is doing really well.
Abraham-Joseph reports leaving the street lifestyle for the rap game. However, his lyrics and videos continue to promote the same lifestyle of drugs and violence he swears to have left behind. Of course, he is not the only one. Kodak Black, a rapper of similar substance hailing from Broward’s own notorious housing projects, Golden Acres located in Pompano Beach, joins 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert and others in this nouveugangsta rap wave.
The most mindboggling aspect Abraham-Joseph’s interview is that he openly acknowledges the intentional promotion of ignorance (his word) in his songs, claiming it is necessary to rap about certain things in order to catch people’s attention. He knows he is encouraging the same lifestyle that has caused his young life such devastation and pain, but the money is too good.
“If I didn’t rap about that stuff I wouldn’t have this platform to speak to you on”, he tells Charlamagne Tha god. “
His lyrics also include the degradation and disrespect of women, but he claims to not “really disrespect women in real life” because he was raised by a single mother.
“But if they gonna keep paying me to say that [expletive] I’m going to keep saying it.” He said.
I could use this shocking interview to place blame on these young rappers and bombard them with words of disgust, disapproval, and disdain. I could talk about the lack of fathers in the home and how the herding of Black men into prisons has destroyed the foundation of our community. I could point out the moral decay of our youth and their fascination with attention and acceptance. But these words would fall on deaf ears for the minds of some of our youth are focused entirely on survival. I could be upset with Abraham-Joseph for promoting a lifestyle of violence in his lyrics, but I am much more upset that that was his reality in the first place.
Our neglected communities house boys and girls traumatized by violence and death be-fore they even hit puberty.
Some of us have no idea what that feels like.
Riding around Broward County one can see the multitude of FAMU license plates. One can shake the hands of Black people who have gone off to school, networked, garnered social and financial capital, and returned home with the appearance of “making it”. Meanwhile areas such as Northwest Pompano Beach are publically neglected and are deteriorating at a rapid rate. Yet we point fingers at “those violent boys” who “lack guidance” and are “destroying our community” all the while avoiding eye contact and conversations with them that could guide our community into a space of much needed healing.
With all the knowledge us educated Black folk have we have lost all semblance of sympathy and compassion for our own people. We are quick to blame the legacy of slavery for our own issues but when it manifests in our community in the form of poverty and violence we blame “those boys”.
It is time we accept that our Community Redevelopment Agencies are not here to “clear slum and blight” and see our communities flourish. We must take on the responsibility of transforming our people and it must start with the healing of our minds. We must enter our communities recognizing that although we are some of the most resilient people on the face of this Earth, there’s a fragility that lingers on our beautiful Black minds that are fractured and shattered by centuries of racism and trauma.
Abraham-Joseph stated he did not have a choice but to trap (sell drugs, etc.) because his family was unfortunate. I wonder if he had someone talk to him and offer him another way to be, how different his life would have been.
Be free, people.
Let’s have a conversation! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org