By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
Can you sense a change in the atmosphere?
Does your intuition suggest the status quo is in for serious rearranging? Do you just feel the rumbling under your feet of unstoppable progress? Can you pick up the wonderful aroma of revolution?
The year 2015 was a game changer. Anyone in this nation who labored under the ridiculous assumption that we were in post-racial America, got a rude awakening. And the blunt, covert ways in which that brutal reality was driven home left a lasting impression on people of all races, and all ages. Like post-9/11, we will never be the same after last year’s annals.
And just as well. What’s being left behind are the things that divide us, that impair progress, that contribute to bigotry, that embrace the affluent and stomp the impoverished, that run a deaf ear to the cries of the sick, the frustrations of the disenfranchised, the pleadings of those desperate to gain some modicum of consideration.
It was an end to an era of ignoring the arrogance of “those that have get.” It set off the alarm for people who believe in inclusion. And most importantly, last year made everyone aware that Frederick Douglass was right – change requires “agitation, agitation, agitation.” So America was reminded that if you can’t get satisfaction in the courtroom or in Congress, you have to take your cause to the streets.
In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
In the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
The marvelous new militancy is reflected in the controversial Beyoncé video, “Formation.” You know things are different because years ago, an artist accused of scurrilous charges hurled her way would have spent the ensuing days rationalizing or apologizing. Beyoncé has instead taken the posture that it is, what it is.
Then the Grammy Awards saw an even more stark performance renouncing bigotry by rapper Kendrick Lamar. These aren’t isolated incidents. They are the genesis of a new militancy among young entertainers.
Oscar and Grammy-winner, rapper, author and actor Common brought that same spirit of consciousness to Indianapolis this week.
He launched into his Glory rap before a crowd of 1,500 delirious middle and high school students this week in Indianapolis. A wonderful student choir with two incredible lead vocalists offered the backdrop for his sterling presentation of the Academy Award winning selection.
The significance of his presence could have ended there. It didn’t. Unlike some celebrities who bring the same speech from city to city fronting love for the children in each location – only to pick up a check and move on to the next life – Common rang with realism and sincerity as his heartfelt expression connected.
The good part about celebrity is that it captures the attention of wandering, impressionable minds that are frequently difficult to harness. The bad part about celebrity is that after so much paparazzi and magazine covers and standing ovations and adoring fans, many of those who achieve it forget their roots.
Not only has he not forgotten, Common won’t let you forget his humble beginnings — raised in a single-parent home on the South Side of Chicago. Common kept it real, whether speaking to the youth-dominated church gathering in the morning or the sold-out dinner crowd at the Downtown J.W. Marriott.
Imagine the possibility of our most visible and relevant artists using their spotlight to trumpet our cause. And no one is apologizing or sweating the repercussions. It could be that they are ready to take a stand for those who cant!
Can you sense a change in the air?
I do. And I think it’s going to last a while this time.