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Handling Today's Business
8/3/2016 11:15:54 AM

By Hakim Abdul-Ali 

Today's rap is for you, the current reader, to digest, but, in truth, it's for one special young Afro-American kid who stopped me last week in North Charleston, and I had one of the best memorable moments I've had in a long time. It was about compassionate listening, overcoming feelings of despair and not wanting to give up.

My very young teenage friend approached me, after recognizing me from "The Chronicle," and he said he wanted to ask me something. Looking a little bit tired, but ever-so-eloquent and direct in his speech, he asked me about what I had to say about hanging in there when one can't seem to "handle his business" right and when things just don't go the way that you want to.

For the uninitiated among today's literary society, "handling one's business" is what and how the hip-hop society refers to whatever it is that they have to do and deal with, personal or otherwise, in life. It's slang to many, but it's also describes in detail so much that some young folk feel that they have to encounter in their chaotic, problematic and challenging worlds of existences.

My very young friend said his father was locked up in prison, and he had four other younger brothers and sisters in his family. He told me, in complete honesty, that he was really, sometimes, selling drugs on the side just to keep some "scratch" (money) in his pocket and to be able to help his mother and younger siblings out.

Tragically, he said he also was planning to drop out of middle school. Yes, you heard me--middle school. As I listened, I couldn't help but think that, maybe, I was probably listening to the saga of millions of our nation's forgotten and displaced minority youth, especially Black boys, from California to New York to Chicago to Houston and all points in between, if someone would take the time to recognize this caustic dilemma.

So, in many ways I felt honored that the young brother wanted to step up to me and talk like he did. I'm a proud father and a humble grandfather who knows that these are some very perilous times facing America, and this young man was merely an example to me of why all ethnic lives matter, and most definitely and, unashamedly, I also attest vigorously and politically that "Black Lives Matters" too. Are you with me?

This young Black kid was very much African-American and his life mattered to me as all other ethnic lives do also, so I shared some old school values with him the best way I knew how. I told him that he didn't need to sell drugs to make it because he had other dynamic skills that he never realized that could earn him some legitimate cash. Saying "no" to alcohol, vices and drugs are head starts to "handling one's business" properly with a clear head and mind.

And, on the subject of quitting school, I told him that he must go back to school, no matter how fruitless he thought doing so was. I related to him that a Black kid with no education today was a naïf, a word that he said he didn't know the meaning of. Quitters in anything never win.

Education comes in many forms. The young kid wanted to know what naïf was, so I broke it down for him as best I could. I told him that word meant being naïve, but it also meant to be ingenious. I further said to that to be a naïf is to be a person with very little experience, and that with him being so young in the game of life, he probably felt like a naïf.

This youngster was smart, bright and sharp, but I didn't know whether I was talking over his head or not. He said he understood what the word naïf meant, and he said he understood why it was so important to stay in school, even though he didn't want to be there.

On another more personal level, he said he didn't want to end up in jail like his father, to which I said, "without an education and not having the ability to read and write correctly, that's where you'll probably end up." The hard facts are there,"his-storically" speaking, to support that known, recognized systemic mis-educational reality for so many (so-called) minority "colored" folk here in America. Elvis P. may have left the building, but hidden racism and undeniable bigotry are still here.

I told the young man he had great skills and gifts that he, being a naïf at this point in his life, must not let them become underdeveloped with anger, aimlessness, hopelessness and despair. Seeing a young leader in the making and a young scholar in training, I wanted him to know that he mustn't give up on what he could be because of the raw, trying difficulties he was presently facing as tears were now welling up in his eyes.

I told him don't be ashamed of those tears because all naïfs who, when just starting out in the game of life, cried many more invisible tears on their successful pathways to whatever it was that they wanted to achieve. He said he understood and that he mentioned that he didn't like selling drugs and he wanted to be a real businessman.

This young brother taught me so much in a short period until I had to write this for your perusal. Our youth, including my new young friend, must be encouraged to be the (very) best that they can be. Their futures are no joke.

By not quitting and not giving in to a dreaded and debilitating "woe is me sense of existence," in actuality, is "handling your business." Take the time and listen to and help all the ethnic youth in the present because they are "our" futures. "Black Lives Matter." For today and always, that's, "As I See It."


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