By Dubem Menakaya
AS I began wondering what to write for this article a few initial thoughts came to my head (If you have seen the Boondocks you can relate, if not go watch it after you read this article you won’t regret it!). First, with the voice of Riley Freeman ‘Why we only get a month though?!’, then Huey Freeman calmed me down ‘The month is a great time for reflection’. Smartly, I chose the second option (to be fair the first option would have resulted in a terrible article!)
What could I reflect on though? I began to think of the great black leaders of the past and how they had shaped the world; words and actions that have changed the globe and are synonymous worldwide. Martin Luther King’s ’I have a dream’ speech and the enduring civil rights movement, Mohammed Ali floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee all while becoming the most inspirational sportsperson on the planet, Nelson Mandela enduring 27 years in prison and then proceeding lead his country in unification while also bringing together the people of the world.
Such leaders and such courage will make sure that they will never be forgotten. Though the changes that they and many others brought about may be obvious, there are also subtle changes that I have overseen in my own lifetime. And this all starts with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. For all you late eighties early nineties babies we effectively grew up on this. I know your reciting the words to the theme tune in your head right now! Now, why I speak about this show is because this is the first time that I saw black people on TV in a majority cast. This in itself was very special; but a greater insight into how this ties in with the leaders of the past is that everybody loved the show. Black, White, Asian, Latin wherever you were from you watched the show and colour wasn’t even really an issue. I mean you still saw it but it didn’t matter. You watched the show because it made you laugh and think.
Without Mohammed Ali’s charisma and talent changing the perspective about black entertainers, Nelson Mandela uniting the whole world around a cause of peace and unity, such enjoyment would have been extremely unlikely. It was in effect a true depiction of Martin Luther King’s speech and what he fought so hard for. This process continued with the explosion of hip-hop and the global fan base that the two figureheads of 90’s hip-hop Tupac and Notorious B.I.G created. The colour didn’t mean anything – you listened to the music because it meant something to you.
These days black role models can be seen everywhere. And the same observation can be seen. Fans and admirers are all different races and religions. Jay-Z once remarked how amazing it was that after performing in Japan that very few knew any English but they knew every word to his songs! Barack Obama went on a world tour and gave speeches to thousands of people all around the world who believed in his message of change.
It is true to say that the world is not all sunshine and rainbows (look it up!). However sometimes we have to take stock of how far we have come and the doors that are now open to us due to the bravery of past and present leaders. When I say us, I’m not just referring to black people. I’m talking about everyone. We all have the opportunity to show off our talents and be judged by not where we are from, but most importantly who we are.
University of Essex – 2nd Year International Enterprise & Business Development Student
Twitter @dmenax Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dubem.menakaya