Commentary

Each generation has something to offer

stockvault-banzai-tree-in-the-room104812Whether it is in an inner city neighborhood across America, the Caribbean, in Europe or in a sprawling mass of people in an African or Brazilian urban area, millions of Black youth throughout the world are crying out for a better quality of life. They should always have a better life than their parents.

I always try to keep my eyes and ears open to see and hear what our youth are saying and doing. The axiom that the future is in the hands of the young is certainly true today. I admire and support young people who stand up and speak out for freedom and equal justice.

Despite what you may have heard, I have been impressed by the new generation of young activists, freedom fighters and community mobilizers who are emerging from Ferguson, Mo. to New York City, Rio, Soweto, Cape Town, Kingston, Havana, Luanda, and Lagos to Kinshasa and Lubumbashi in the Congo.

Over the past several years, we have witnessed Black youth in the United States and throughout the Pan African world rise to challenge the lingering vestiges of racial oppression, neo-colonialism and economic inequity. There is a hunger and thirst for new movements for social, political and economic change by a generation of youth who appear to be ready to move forward.

Unfortunately, there are many young activists and leaders who are not receiving the kind of encouragement that they deserve and need to be successful. That’s especially true in the case of those of us who have learned the contours and dynamics of power, institution building and what it means to sustain an effective movement for change. We need to show our youth more love, concern and support, even when we have a different opinion about how they should approach a particular task.

We cannot afford a generation gap at the leadership level. We cannot afford a cultural gap on the issues revolving around the poetry, music and art forms of our young artists who have always evolved out of the crucibles of our long struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Wisdom must be transmitted from one generation to the other. But more than anything else, our young today need to be encouraged to withstand harsh contradictions of a society and world that still attempts to deny our humanity.

Yet, I know from first-hand experience that it is difficult, if not impossible, to give to others what you do not have in your own mind, pocket or spirit. In order to encourage our young lions to become strong freedom fighters, we have to be encouraged ourselves. If our spirit is broken, how are we going to inspire someone else?

W.E.B. DuBois, John Oliver Killens, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez, Nelson Mandela and many other of our freedom-fighting writers and scholars all were once encouraged by elders who pointed the way forward in the global struggle for freedom and empowerment. Now more than ever before, our youth need the encouragement and guidance of the elders who are sober with informative and inspiring wisdom of the past and present.

That is true at home and abroad. For example, there are 78 million people, whose average age is 16 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Millions of these young Congolese should be educated about the legacy and spirit of Patrice Lumumba. The majority of Africans across the continent are young, gifted and talented.

This is no time for us to engage in hopelessness in Africa, nor in America. The miseries of the past do not have to be our future. We must learn from the past. Our future should not be determine by what others do to us, but by what we will do for ourselves, and in particular what we will do to help our youth excel, triumph and push for a better quality of life.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc

February 18, 2015
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