feature: “a letter to black boys and the men they will become”

February 12, 2015

In these troublesome times, we find ourselves once again marching against persecution, fighting for freedom and having to force society to allow us fair representation and acceptance. Even in these storms we face, never stop believing in our bright future. Never let our struggles diminish all that we have to celebrate. Although whilst celebrating our progress, sadly we must once more reaffirm that #BlackLivesMatter. Like it or not, no more so should we be saying this to ourselves. I ask you to make sure you say to yourself “My life Matters!” Therefore, I write this as message to my brothers: The young Martin Luther Kings, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Frederick Douglas, President Barack Obama, Dr Cornell West,  Trevor McDonald, Bob Marley, Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Bernie Mac, Michael Jordan, Gill Scott-Heron, Mohammad Ali and even me Antoine Allen.
By Antoine Allen, AFROPUNK Contributor
You might be too young to have come to the realisation of how the world is. Let me tell you, there isn’t an even playing field! Sadly, like myself, you maybe older enough to know that. And even worse, you may have had this inequality burden your soul and dampen your spirit. Never forget that a man with a bright future, will always find a way to shine. Stay strong! The future is brighter than you realise.

Inside of you is uncapped strength.

Let me tell you about our people; triumph through adversity is at the heart of every story of black success. Yes, what your parents tell you is true. You do have to do better than your counterparts. You do have to work harder. You will have to be that little bit better at everything you do. 
Everyone climbs the mountain of success; But some people start higher up. Some people are given better equipment to help them get to the top. Some people are lucky enough to sit back and ride their daddy’s helicopter to the mountain peak. Such is life!

Remember that saying. As it will stand you in good stead to brush off temporary defeat and keep your eyes focused on everlasting glory.

You are not born losers. 

You are not stupid. 
You are not just another statistic.
You are not a minority; the world is a big place and Africa is it’s biggest continent. So don’t view yourself so small!
Let the message begin like this; think it, believe it and you will achieve it!

Think it! 

“I have a dream…” Martin Luther King

Have a dream like Martin Luther King!
Whatever your goal, dream or hope for life,  have it at the forefront of your actions and your opinions.
Think about what you want to be. 
Think about who you want to be. 
Think about how you want people to see you. 
Think about your future.
Your life is not Yolo; it’s a long widening and ever continuing struggle to achieve your goals. One day of lack of thoughts can deny you a lifetime of living out your dreams.
Think about your future. 
What may seem fun or right today, may seem ridiculous and pointless tomorrow.
Ask yourself do I need to do this?
Is this getting me closer to my goals?
Is this going to negatively or positively impact my life, goals, hopes and dreams? If not keep it moving! 
Don’t be misguided by those with no direction. Don’t allow your dream to be diminished by those with no confidence in themselves; which causes them to believe you can’t because they can’t. Yes you can!
Don’t give people an excuse to think little of you and do think highly of yourself. How you carry yourself directly influences how people will see and judge you. Respect yourself! But also don’t allow other judgements and thoughts of you to make you undervalue yourself.
So I ask you to make you sure think about your actions today; so you can build for tomorrow. Think about your future.  
Believe it!
“Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end”Nelson Mandela
You are more than they tell you.

You are more than they show you. 
You are more than they assume about you. 
What they say is aggressive is merely their misguided fear of the confidence you have in yourself. 
What they say is your underperformance; is merely a challenge to you to show them you can defeat a system designed against you. A challenge for you to find where your true talents reside!
If you take one thing from the election of President Barack Obama let it be this; You can be whatever you want to be as long as you are willing to face inequality with unparalleled determination and belief that you have something of substance to offer.
You are winners!
Your potential is limitless. 
Your talent is in abundance.
You are the future!
Your abilities stretch beyond the physical. 
Your capabilities go beyond marks and test scores. 
You are the future! 
Achieve it
“By any Means Necessary” Malcolm X

As Malcolm said, seek to achieve your goal without excuses.

Admittedly, this is the hardest and most gruelling thing to do. Setting a goal and following it through. So, I say set more than one goal! Think of the smaller some would say ‘easier’ goals whilst you purse your ultimate dream. Remember simple but essential goals; Aim to have a home, respect your family and earn money in a way you and your children would be proud of.
How to achieve? Well…
Do the best you can at school. But remember the school of life is where you will do your most learning.  
Be the best you can be at every challenge you undertake. But understand that failure is only temporary if you refuse to give up. Failing is part of the journey of learning and achieving. However, quitting ends all journeys and turns failing into be being a failure. Don’t be a quitter!
Read something each day. Getting into the habit of searching for knowledge will propel you through life. But, be wise in what you choose to believe, be careful who you take knowledge from and how you use it. How can you expect or trust the same  government that enslaved our people to teach you about our people? That’s like asking the hunter the history of the lion. Do your own research; open your mind and set yourself free!
Stay healthy; a healthy body means a healthy mind; don’t smoke your life and enthusiasm away. But enjoy life! Try new things but don’t be distracted from your goals or your morals. 
Listen to conscious music as well as club hits. The music that you dance to in the club shouldn’t be the same music you use to educate, motivate or inspire you in your home. Like it or not, commercial hip hop has been sold out for a long time. There’s more to life than fake gangsters, in Bugatti’s they can’t actually afford. Most importantly if you think women are all hoes and bitches, you not only disrespect them but yourself. Who will you love, marry and respect? How do you expect your Mother, Sister and daughter to see themselves if you have such little respect for them? 90% of hip hop is entertainment to distract you from real issues. That 10% is the real hip hop to educate and command you to pay attention to the real issues! The real issues that tell our stories for us. The real Hip Hop that challenge us to “Fight The Power”; with their lyrics that ask questions of society’s treatment of oppressed peoples and highlight the social issues of the day. Can we really expect Iggy Azalea to speak about police brutality with any kind of potency or knowledge?
With that said, be careful what you let influence your thoughts and opinions. Most of us “aren’t about that life”. There is no shame in simply being a man of honour who cares for his family and friends. 
Own a pair of dress shoes and at least one suit. Whatever your job, one day you will need a suit for a wedding, funeral, party or interview. Put it on and see how different it makes you feel. Now take that feeling into everything you wear. Use that confidence to show that even in a hoodie you are a man. A
gentleman; Who deserves respect.

Invest your money. Today’s gifts and buys may seem fun but having a home of your own tomorrow will feel righteous and like a ‘real’ man. But remember, you are not rooted to your home like an Oak Tree. Go out and explore the world!

Research; really know what you want to be and how you must achieve it. Don’t expect a hand out or hook up. Be your own hook up. Remember your struggle and think “I want my children to have an easier time than me”. However, remember what you stand for and who you are as a man is more important than the material possessions like how fast you car is or how big your house is.

Love your family and friends. You can’t change your family but good friends are family members you chose for yourself. Choose wisely. Studies have shown that it is the 5 people we surround ourselves with the most that influence our lives most heavily. Some people simply are not on your path; sometimes its best to leave them behind.
Finally, to be a man, you must learn how to associate with men; with your brothers. Look a man in the eye, shake his hand and see a potential friend not an enemy. Have friends who think differently to you, come from a different background and will tell you the truth about yourself when you need it. As Nelson Mandela said;  “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.

Don’t Follow the crowd; be an individual!
When you see another brother doing well for himself, be happy for him and be inspired by his success not envious. Do not be like crabs in a barrel; each one thinking the only way to succeed is by dragging someone else down. Remember united we stand; divided we fall. 
Your ultimate dream:
Whatever it may be understand that things take time. Some days you are up. Some days you are down. Some days life will grab you by the neck and choke you to see if you can handle the pressure! Handle the pressure!
We as people have overcome more than anyone else. Never be embarrassed by your history. Slavery is nothing to be ashamed of. We are the people who were beaten, imprisoned, murdered and systematically oppressed. Despite our past, we continue to progress towards greatness, impress as men and achieve success as a people!
Remember the hands that were picking cotton can now pick the president. The hands that were chained and beaten now run the White House. The backs that were scarred from whips now stand strong and proud lifting gold medals, cups, oscars and awards across the globe. The faces soaked in sweat and tears of a people oppressed, raped, beaten and tortured now look more beautiful than ever in the knowledge that we have overcome! We are free! We are beautiful! We can be anything we want to be. We are CEOs, doctors, lawyers, builders, architects, politicians, sports people, musicians, dancers, artists, journalists, writers, models, social workers, nurses, soldiers, teachers, dreamers and most of all survivors!

The revolution will not be televised; but it will begin and end in your minds

Whatever you choose to be in life; choose the pursuit of greatness over just the commodities of success. Aim to be the best you can be. Don’t measure your life by your bank account. Measure it by the amount of love you have given and received, the respect you have from your family and friends. The amount of times you looked at yourself in the mirror and could say ” I like my life and I like me!”

So my message to you is:
Don’t waste your time! You can’t buy it back.
Don’t forget how much potential you have. You are limitless!
Don’t waste all the opportunities the world has for you. You have so much to offer.
Don’t let society hold you back.
Don’t hold yourself back.
Don’t chase the bad things.
Don’t let temporary failure break your spirit for everlasting success.
Don’t be a statistic.
Don’t be what they want you to be.
Don’t give them excuses!
Don’t give yourself excuses.
Do love yourself.
Do love your people.
Do think about your future.
Do believe you are the future.
Do chase your dreams.
Do remember your history.
Do use your strength to say “I am somebody”
Remember whatever your dream, think it, believe it and you will achieve it.

Share this for the brothers who need to read it!

  Photo credit (banner): Russell Lee