D.L. Chandler's frequent thoughts on the world of hip hop and beyond

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

In The Shadow Of The Nation's Capitol

I’ve been in and around the Nation’s Capital nearly all my life and it never ceases to amaze me how much our lives are affected by the men and women on the avenues of Pennsylvania and Independence. In light of that, it angers me to know that many of the city’s poor residents don’t even care about that very thing. I try to limit my time at night in the Washington, D.C.’s more notorious neighborhoods, but I was returning from a meeting with some resident activists who have concerns about literacy, the reality that they may lose their homes to rising prices and the specter of gentrification. It wasn’t a large gathering nor was it anything that hasn’t been discussed many times over. There exists a portion of the population in urban areas that desire true and noticeable change in their environments. But none of these people ever take those congressmen and women to task – and it could be that they just aren’t acclimated to the crazy and jargon-filled world of politics.

Young people approaching true adulthood are now the MTV/BET/Videogame heads we used to be (and some of us still are in some cases). As I’m slowly moving into the “getting old" bracket, I’m a little more aware of using my stately old man status to command the attention of the kids who probably don’t think I know Chingy from a sound on a cash register. As I leave the meeting, I decided to take the long walk back to the subway train. I usually do this to free my mind for writing in my journals and for this blog. I don’t jump into conversations with young people in the hood because most times it sets off defenses unnecessarily with them. But I had to ask these two guys who were obviously just finishing up their drug selling runs for t he night if they ever voted or cared about politics. One of the kids was 17 and the other was 19. The older kid said what I thought he’d say:

“Voting ain’t changing sh*t out here in these streets for real. So I can’t say I ever will."

It was a long, tense pause after he said that but he finally seemed to lighten up. His friend, however, said that as soon as he's able that he will be in the polls. He said that drugs and weed should be legal so he wants to fight for that – “on the low," he said. That wasn’t the intent I had by speaking to him but if he thinks he can make a change in that arena by voting, I wish the young cat luck. This proved to me that you can reach them and I’m hoping that this sudden quiet hum from all of the rappers and entertainers is just a formality as we wait until the movement to educate people on the political process picks up steam. Take for instance 17-year old Aries Jordan who penned a wonderful editorial here. In a perfect world, all city-bred kids would adopt this stance and be this informed. Of course that may never be the case. The hope I maintain is that after the shock of the outcome of this past election and if the government continues to run from a conservative angle, that it will be an even louder wake up call than November 2nd was.


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