The Power of Our Words

The many obstacles that came my way as a result of No Child Left Behind taught me some valuable lessons. In order to overcome obstacles you must continue to work hard to rebuild trust and integrity, not only among friends but in the marketplace as well. So whenever I decide to put words down on paper or speak them to another human being I am conscious that my words have the potential to influence not only the actions of whoever may be listening today, but the actions of generations yet to come. The pride I feel from knowing my words can have such an impact have been replaced by feelings of humility. I have come to realize that my ability to express ideas and influence the opinions of others is a gift which must be used for the betterment of my country and all mankind.
 
Knowing its great potential for destruction, America holds dear freedom of speech because she believes the righteous voices of her citizens will prevail over those of destruction and despair and push her closer to her full potential. From religion to musical and artistic expression, freedom of speech has helped this nation grow. History provides no greater example than the modern day civil rights movement.
 
With the advancement of technology, entertainers, more than all others, have greater reach to express their ideas and ideologies to the public. Among the most impressionable audience–teenagers, the music genre referred to as Hip Hop, have become very popular and influential. Although it began as an entertaining form of political expression, Hip Hop artists now compete in a race of degradation. Artist who have a positive message are drowned out by the voices of those who wish to celebrate ignorance, crime, drug use and promiscuity.
 
Millions of children listen to these negative lyrics everyday, hoping they will be empowered by the words of artists whom they regard as role models. However, in reality, they are weakened with these words that destroy their sense of self worth and identity. They are made to believe they cannot achieve in school, that they cannot build wealth with hard work and patience and that finally they cannot overcome the obstacles placed in front of them. Furthermore, young women are made to believe that they are nothing more than sexual objects and young men are taught to treat them as such. Unable to develop relationships based on love and respect, these young men and women find themselves unable to form strong families and the cycle begins anew.
 
In his book "Al On America", Reverend Sharpton recalls a conversation with a rapper: "we’re like a mirror to society, we are merely reflecting what we see," said the rapper, to which Sharpton replied: "Well, I don’t know about you, but I use a mirror to correct what’s wrong with me, I don’t look in the mirror to see my hair messed up and my teeth need brushing and just walk out of the house that way. I use the mirror to fix me." Sharpton is absolutely correct. By reflecting the ills of our society, rappers are in effect telling our children that violence, broken English, fornication and drug use are okay.
 
While Hip Hop is not the root cause of these ills that plague this vast country of ours, it has had a hand in ensuring these problems in many ways reach epidemic proportions. By now, they should have realized that their music is degrading, disrespectful, filthy, racist, and often times appeal to the least common denominator. Isn’t it time they change their lyrics and words to create uplifting words, images and messages that will have the kind of social redeeming value that will sustain generations to come?   Any artist that tells you otherwise, underestimates the power of his words. Commenting on advice from his father, the late Tupac Shakur stated in one of his records: "It seemed a little unimportant; when he told me I smiled. Picture jewels being handed to an innocent child." Sadly, many Hip Hop artists treat the gift they were given with the same respect. Though they have the power to influence and shape the minds of the youth, not only here in America, but throughout the world, they choose to rap about things that only reinforce negative
stereotypes.
 
We have come to know those who came before us by what they left behind. Hip Hop artists must ask themselves if the work they produce is what they want to be known for long after they have left this earth. Is this the "knowledge" they want to bequeath to our future generations?  Perhaps if they view their craft from this perspective, they will have more respect for themselves and the awesome gift they have been blessed with. The lives of countless youth are hanging in the balance, along with the legitimacy of our most sacred Freedom of expression.


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