My Experience: The African American Excellence Summit

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In this day and age, especially as a teenager, I get the constant feeling that my opinion doesn’t matter. Whether it’s dealing with issues concerning my family, or suggesting ideas in the classroom, I always feel like my ideas are…dismissed. And this statement is especially true most of the time, sadly, due to the color of my skin. Not with my family, but at times I feel like teachers and people I encounter that aren’t black, act like I’m incapable of making my own thoughts or expressing myself. Not only does this anger me, but it makes me a little scared to think that there are people who think this way, when we currently have an African-American president. I could go on for a while about this, but I’ll save it for another post. Anyway, imagine my excitement  when I get an email that I have been asked to take part in a panel on African American Educational Excellence at Morehouse College on behalf of the White House! The panel I was on was literally made to see how Black boys and young men felt on issues concerning them, and how adults can help us on the problems we face. It was so fitting to some of the problems I face,  that I thought it was actually a joke. “Yeah right, so I’m probably going to ride on Air Force One to meet with the President for lunch afterwards, right?” But then, I asked my parents about it, and sure enough, it was happening.

        My first reaction was excitement, but the more I thought about how important this was, my emotions quickly turned into nervousness. The Summit was postponed briefly due to weather problems, but that didn’t stop me from constantly thinking about what I have to say and all the things that can go wrong. What if I start to sweat a lot on stage? What if I can’t answer any of the questions? What if I look stupid!  All of this was swimming through my head as the days leading up to the summit were ticking away. But as I sat on my couch on the night before the summit, my dad gave my the best advice I could have gotten. He said:

“This entire panel is about people like you. You don’t have to make things up or memorize things. Just speak from the heart. That’s what they want.”

And with that, I felt ready to take part in this experience.

        And after all the anticipation, and the weeks and weeks of wondering what’s going to happen, I’m glad to say that it went very well. I felt the energy in the room, as the panelists and I answered all the questions we were asked with fluidity and relaxation. We were asked questions like “how do stereotypes affect the way you live”, all the way to “what is the one thing that adults can do to support black males”. To be honest, it didn’t even feel like a “panel”. It simply felt like a conversation between the panelists and the moderator, Nick Chiles (I liked him… a lot) . The audience wasn’t intimidating at all, and their questions in the Q&A were thought-provoking.  And one of the bests parts, was that I even got to plug  thedarkerlens! I felt like I could be up there all day, but there was a different panel after us. And it was during that panel, that I learned one of the most important messages of the entire day.

        The next panel was about how Black men can have success in college. It was an electric and exciting panel to watch, and I learned a lot of statistics and opinions that can really benefit me down the road. But what I got the most from that panel, was the importance to go to a Historically Black College. All these panelists, mainly men, were all alumni of an HBCU. What was great about that, was the fact that all of them were SO SMART. Like, it was overwhelming how smart these people were. From professors, to  graduated seniors of HBCU’s, all of these people were incredibly intelligent. And honestly, it was refreshing to see. Too many times in the media and on the news, I see the stereotypical depiction of a black man who is either barely literate, or a convict. This panel was a great reminder that there are still brilliant black males in the world, and that it is possible to be around them through HBCU’s. And that’s, to me, why it is so important to go to a HBCU. Whether it’s Morehouse, Howard, Hampton, or any other college, it needs to be a place where I can be around and learn from smart black men. And hopefully, I can become one in the future.

 

 

Me (on the far left chair) at the Summit.

Me (on the far left chair) at the Summit.

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What Made My Week: The Boondocks Return

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It was a Tuesday, around 3:45 pm. I’m riding back from school on the bus, with only maybe five other people on it. With my headphones in, looking out the window, I’m just waiting to get home. The day wasn’t the best. My math class was particularly dull today, and I pretty much fell asleep in Spanish. On top of all that, I was just recovering from a stomach virus, so I definitely wasn’t 100 percent. As the bus makes its final turn, I try to see if the Adult Swim wall is different. It’s been blank for about a week now. We make the final turn and I halfheartedly look in the direction of the sign, and I see this:

 

                         Boondocks.JPG

It takes me a couple seconds to understand what I’m looking at, and then it hits me like a pile of bricks (or aStinkmeaner Chest Kick). I pull out my headphones, turn to the first people I see and exclaim “BOONDOCKS IS COMING BACK!” I’m met with a series of strange looks, but that doesn’t matter to me anymore. I run home from my stop, do a little dance for a minute in the middle of the living room, and then collapse on the sofa in exhaustion. Finally: The Boondocks is coming back.

Now if you don’t know what The Boondocks is (really?), then let me explain. Based on a comic strip, The Boondocks is a cartoon show that involves the lives of a Black family from the south Chicago area that moves into a white suburb, and the adventures that come about. With crazy characters, hilarious writing, and clever storylines, The Boondocks was created by Aaron McGruder in 2005. Since then, three seasons have been made, followed by a VERY long wait. And now, finally, The Boondocks returns on April 21st.

 

Words cannot describe how much I like this show. Every character, every episode, and almost every scene from this cartoon has made me laugh or think in some way. Not only is the show hilarious, but it’s also brilliant. With tons of thought-provoking satire involving Hip-Hop, the Internet, and even ignorance in the Black community, The Boondocks, isn’t just a “cartoon.” It’s more of a social commentary. Some of my favorite episodes include “Return Of The King”, where Martin Luther King Jr. comes back from the dead and sees the world we’re living in. And of course, I love “Granddad’s Fight”, which focuses on the ignorance aspect of black people.

 

But there’s another reason why I’m so happy that The Boondocks is coming back, and that’s to shine a light on issues today. It’s been almost four years since season three ended, which means there are a lot of relevant subjects that would have been great material for the show. With Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Obama’s second term to name a few, it’s obvious that a lot has happened to Black people, as well as society in general. Back in 2010, The Boondocks was showing people the Black perspective of topics that were important back then. And because of this, not only were people given a chance to think about these issues, but they could also enjoy doing it! To me, at least, it was like the news with comedy. I was informed as well as entertained. It was great.

 

I made this blog to show the perspective of a Black teenage boy in this society. As much as I would like to think it, Thedarkerlens doesn’t have a worldwide audience. But I feel like I’m still helping, for I feel like my perspective and the perspective of Black people needs to be heard.  And that’s the main reason why I’m so happy for this season. The Boondocks has a worldwide audience to show the opinion of Black people. And for that, I’m ecstatic.

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Mexico vs Nigeria in Atlanta: A Nigerian’s Perspective

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Remember when I said I LOVE sports? Well that statement couldn’t be more true when it comes to one of my favorite sports. This is the sport that unites us on a global scale for thirty days, to remind us that we all have something in common.  Something that we can all say is inspiring, exciting, and and simply beautiful to watch and play. I’m talking about soccer, the sport of the world.  Now,  I am a huge fan of soccer, so when I heard that there was an international friendly happening between Mexico and Nigeria, the country ofmy heritage, in my city, I nearly lost control over my motor skills. As an African American with an African Dad, I almost never get an opportunity to show my heritage as a Nigerian while still being in America. This was something that won’t happen again for a while, and I was more than happy to go.  As I put on my Nigeria T-shirt at home, all I could think about was the feeling I was going to have when I could see an arena with Mexican’s and Nigerians enjoying the same event together.  Jesus, was I in for something different.

 

The arena was sold out with around 68,000 attendants.

 

I counted around 30 Nigerians.

 

Everywhere I looked all I saw was the Mexican country colors of green, red, and white, the Jersey’s of the Mexican National Team’s favorite players, and the Mexican National Flag.  If you scanned the stadium for long enough, you could see a couple of darker faces in the crowd with the green and white Nigerian colors on, but you would soon lose them in a matter of seconds. My family would get multiple looks from everyone in the crowd, followed by a generous amount of Spanish in our direction.  I later found out that it wasMexico going on a country tour, and Nigeria @ Atlanta was just a stop.Basically, we were severely outnumbered.

And that’s only the half of it. It was clear from the start that this wasn’t just a Mexico vs Nigeria game. no, this was a MEXICOOOOOOOOOOO VS nigeria  game. The announcements? In Spanish. The half-time show? In Spanish. The commercials on the big screen? Español. Not only were there barely any Nigerians attending, but there were no Nigerians running the program. From the music choice, to the cadence of the announcers voice when talking about both the teams, you could tell which team had home field advantage.

Even though we were definitely the minority in this group, something very interesting happened to me. Because of the singularity of my condition,  I never felt prouder to be Nigerian.  I know this may sound weird, but it felt like  my family and I were representing our country all by ourselves. We couldn’t see anybody else within our section representing Nigeria so we had to make sure we gave as much energy as possible.  And because of this, I loved every minute of it. When Nigeria got boo’ed when they touched the ball, it just made me want to scream louder with more enthusiasm.

 

The game ended in a scoreless tie, but it was still a great game to go to. Not only did I see my first international soccer game, but it was also the first time in a long time that I could forget about everything I personally stand for, and focus on the only important thing at the moment: being a Nigerian. I say this because I feel like a sense of heritage is very important. I ‘m lucky enough to have a father straight from Nigeria, so I know where my blood is from. But to African-Americans, I’m telling you, nothing feels better than representing your home country.  Whether it’s with a website like africanancestry.com, or going through your family tree, knowing your heritage is something I think everybody has the right to have. Because at that game I’ve never felt prouder in my life, and I want other people to have the same feeling.

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