What Would Our Ancestors Think?

by Jamal Sharif

So there I sat, painfully absorbing the 2000 Source Awards, in all its crass-talking, crotch-grabbing, ‘bling-bling’-ing glory, as it thundered across the TV screen in brilliant technicolor.

Since I’m partial to the less inane, more socially-uplifting genre of hip-hop music, I shrugged off my distaste as mere stylistic differences.

I know, call me conservative.

Distaste then graduated to disappointment, and finally disgust, upon witnessing the now legendary melee, which led to the award show’s ultimate disintegration.

I was a horrified spectator, as adult men in expensive clothing hurled threats and objects and punches at one another. One fellow, it’s reported, was relieved of one of his $150,000 diamond encrusted necklaces.

Until then, I never realized millionaires could be so angry.

At the end of it all; after the stampeding and the cops and the pepper spray had cleared, I was struck with a sobering realization:

Somewhere, our ancestors were weeping.

For there was a time in this country, when immensely talented African-American artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, and Rex Ingram, were denied the opportunity to step on a stage and perform. These pioneers and way-makers struggled through careers of brutal mistreatment, indignities, and humiliation - to secure our basic human right of self-expression.

And yes, there was a time when the hip-hop community, often vilified and dismissed as a passing phenomenon, strived for society at large to acknowledge and respect this significant, cultural movement. A movement created by Black and Latino youth, ironically, as a constructive alternative to street brawls and senseless violence.

Then, in the midst of honoring our own, we present such a demeaning, sloppy display. Clearly, there have been better days. If only the cameras had been there to record them.

Hip-hop has certainly made its gains. Yet, with privilege comes responsibility.

So, after days of judicious contemplation, I feel confident enough to say:

If this is what’s to come - let us go no further.

Let us study, learn, and re-evaluate.

Let us pay homage to our ancestors, who struggled so valiantly for our benefit.

Let us apologize, and ask their forgiveness.

The hip-hop community would like to do its part, by upholding the rich, celebrated legacy it has inherited:

Please, ancestors; we ask for another chance.

What Would Our Ancestors Think? by Jamal Sharif

© Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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