Victoria’s Corner

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Latest | by — March 19, 2012

Victoria Pannell

Hello Coremag readers,

Thank you so much for the nice comments following my first blog last month. It was well received. That is the reason I’m feeling the pressure for the one you are reading now. You know how when you do something so well the first time, that is what people come to expect from you all the time. The first time I gave a speech in front of thousands, everything just clicked. I didn’t stumble. I felt comfortable and relaxed. People could relate to what I was saying. It was a day where everything fell into place. Fast forward to March 17. I was speaking on postal closings in front of about 200 people. After standing there and yelling three times, “Are we fired up?” I started talking about the possible consequences of the US postal service closing 3700 post offices. I also talked about the National Save Our Post Offices Day which is April 6, 2012 that the Youth Move is sponsoring. It was a short and to the point speech. I felt is it was not as good as speeches I have given in the past. I have always heard the saying, “First impressions are the most important.” While that is true, the second counts for a lot also. Like Anita Baker I want to give the readers the best that I got, especially Coremag readers. I take my responsibilities seriously and want to do a good job.

Part of my responsibilities as a regional youth director is opening new youth chapters from Maine to Washington. At a recent meeting to open a new chapter, it hit me hard that so many African American people have been brain washed, especially the young people, to feel inferior. I first heard my mother use the term, “dumbing down” about two years ago. Lately, this has become a popular term in speeches. It was thrown at me long before it became a popular term in motivation speaking, but I only recently started paying attention to what it really means and how we as young people are really suffering from it. What is causing some young African Americans to dumb themselves down and more important, how is it that sometimes we don‘t even realize we are doing it.

When talking to groups of young people for the first time, I always ask them to introduce themselves as an ice breaker. Nobody wants to go first. Everybody look around to see who is going to be the first to stand and say something. I can tell by the looks on some of the faces that they want to say something but are afraid someone is going to make fun or laugh at them. That is when my mother will step up and say, “So, we have no leaders in here?” Usually after that, somebody will stand up and introduce themselves. Why did it take an adult, to question our ability, before somebody had the courage to stand up and speak? Why do we wait for someone else to go first when we are capable of doing it first ourselves? How come we do not tap into the power that we all possess but is to afraid to unleash? What makes us commit, “dumbing down?” The word that comes to my mind is a word I’ve heard a lot in the past year, suppression.

We have been so suppressed as a people that we are afraid to let our light shine. As I write this, I realize that even in church, we sing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” How come we can’t have a big light? People of other cultures are never afraid to be the best they can be. It is expected of them. I have never heard anyone ask an Asian youth if he or she can dance or rap. At the Apollo Theater in New York city, I see young Asians doing mind blowing dance moves, but that is not how society view them. Can they dance or rap is not what come to mind. Usually it is, “can they tutor my child in Math or Science?” When I watch the national spelling bee, I see Caucasians sweat when they are spelling beside someone of Indian descent but have no fear if an African American is standing there. If it is a talent contest, other ethnic groups are nervous as can be against young people of color. Why would I, as a 12 year old, notice stuff like this? When you live with my mother you have no choice! Every time she points out perceived social stereo types, I will see something later that day or the next day that proves her point. I always get the, “See God is confirming what I told you.” look.

The meeting to open up the new youth move chapter was an evening packed with the, “See God is confirming what I told you.” look. My mother is chairperson of the Youth Move Adult Advisory Committee, so she is always advising. The frustrating part is, she is mostly always right in her advising, and God will give me confirmation pretty soon afterward she knew what she was talking about. If I miss God’s confirmation, mom is going to point it out with a look or with a forceful verbal “I told you and God confirmed it.”

Back to the meeting. I ask the question, “who likes rap music?” The room became alive. All of a sudden, everyone had something to say. When we were talking about issues such as gangs, drugs, bullying, and school closing nobody had much to say. Bring up the rap music, and I had to stop everyone from talking at once. My mother was upset that music was more front and center than the problems we face as a people until one of our young adult advisors told her that music was something that everyone in the room could relate to. I then followed up the rap question with the “n” word, the “h” word, and the “b” word that is used so much in the music that our young people listen to. There were a lot of different opinions, but too many of the young people didn’t mind being degraded in the music they listen to.

My mother used that moment to say something that made everybody in the room, with the exception of one person, to think really hard about not only what they are listening to, but to who they are listening to. She told them that she had noticed whenever P Diddy or Jay Z pose for Vibe, Source or a hip hop magazine they always had the hood or gangster look. The clothes are always hoodies, mean and tough faces, bling everywhere, alcohol in the shot, any and everything that represent the hood. Now let’s flip this to Forbes magazine which my mother subscribes to along with magazines like Fortune. Jay Z has on a suit standing beside Warren Buffet. When Diddy poses besides Donald Trump for magazine covers he is wearing a suit looking like the millions he is worth. They talk about their financial blueprints for increasing their wealth. They talk about their stock portfolio. The magazines that make their way into the corners stores, that stands beside the liquor stores, which stands beside the check cashing place, have the ‘keeping it real in the hood’ articles, and nothing about financial literacy. The magazines you find in downtown doctor offices, first class in airplanes, news stands on Madison ave, and upscale spas and salons, have the millionaire rappers standing beside their billionaire friends and the articles are about their financial blueprint. This is what my mother tells the group. Only one person gave a comment that made us go “huh”. She said we (meaning African Americans) didn’t want to see our rappers in suits so we wouldn’t buy magazines that highlighted them as successful businessmen. We wanted to see the hood shots.

It is so sad that we don’t expect the best from the entertainers that our communities made rich. We don’t care what they call us, how they portray us, or how they brainwash us. A day after Martin Luther King’s birthday, Kanye West and Jay Z’s song, N_ _ gas in Paris, went to first place on the Billboard record chart; the first song to contain the “N” word to become number one. How sad that Martin Luther King was probably called an “N” word before James Earl Ray shot him. I don’t believe Ray said, “let me go shoot Mr King.” No, I believe he used the “N” word before pulling the trigger. The very word that Dr King and others suffered being called every day was in the title of the number one song on the Billboards chart during his birthday week. Now we have people that are not African Americans feeling so comfortable in using that word again that it is even used against our President. If only our entertainers would use that power they have for something good instead of taking us back to the 60’s when the The Ku Klux Klan, George Wallaces and Bull O’Connor’s used it so freely to degrade and suppress us.

Though music and media, we are led to believe that we need two hundred dollars Nike’s so badly that we will stand in line for hours and break mall windows to get a pair. Kids pay a hundred and fifty dollars to see a Itty Bitty Wayne concert, but will not go to a free educational class. We are better than that. When are we going to start acting like we are better than that? A lady saw our 11 year old male secretary to the Youth Move reading a book that was meant for older students. She actually told him how surprised she was to see a young person reading. We know she meant a young male person of color. We are NOT inferior. We deserve fine dining and knowing the salad fork from the dinner fork. We deserve to ride in first class. We deserve to read Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg News, and The Wall Street Journal instead of XXL which is totally degrading. We deserve to dress in suits and dresses instead of too tight skirts and below the butt pants. We deserve to know about bail bonds instead of stocks and bonds. Our young people should be making money on Wall Street and not on the corner of the street. We deserve the best, but if we can’t see our own self worth how can anyone else know our value. I’m determined to let other young people know they are priceless. Thanks for reading reading and I will see you next month in my little corner of the world.

-Victoria Pannell

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