Choices: “Inclination vs. Obligation” by Jahmal Cole: Delivered 2/7/2013 at Whitney Young Library 79th and King Dr. Chicago.
We all have choices. Life is a constant battle between inclination and obligation, and we are given the privilege of choosing between what we’d like to do and what we know we should do. While one choice might bring more instant gratification, the other, often less desired, choice can bring long-term rewards—individually and for the community as a whole.
Those choices might be as simple as deciding whether to sleep in or get up and go to work, whether to litter or to recycole. Choosing whether to hang out with friends and smoke a little weed or have dinner with your family. Positive or negative, each choice has consequences on the life we live and the people we care about. These decisions also impact our community as a whole.
The 6th Ward has become a product of our decisions. The irony about this is The driving force behind our culture is not ideological, meaning that it reflects the new ideas social needs and aspirations of our community. No—the driving force of the culture in our ward is economic. Take a look around. Everywhere you turn, advertisements promote instability—Take a look at the billboards that are erected in our ward. I like to think of them not as billboards but as storyboards that paint a vivid picture. our billboards advertise pay day loans with high interest rates, cheap divorces, expungment, unhealthy fast food, 1800 tequila and Remy Martin cognac, drug research. They don’t promote exercise and education instead the advertise immediate gratification. Quick cash, fast buzz.
Have you ever asked yourself how come we’re being bombarded by this type of advertisements? The answer is really quite simple if you think about it. Businesses market their products and services to favourable demographics. It’s called market research. You wouldn’t put a $1,500 per month billboard for ice cake flavoured Smirnoff vodka in a place where you didn’t feel you’d get a return on your investment. That wouldn’t be wise
When you find a group of people who having the skills to earn (LIKE WE DO) but remain emotionally self centered and impulsive with their spending habits, (Like We Do) as a business owner you’ve found a gold mind. Your billboard will drain money out of a community without the need for your presence. I would say you’ve hit a lick. You done came up.
I tell you all of this because our economy and our community can only thrive with the cooperation of people like you and me. Before you spend a dollar in Chatham, ask yourself is a portion of this money going to the community or from the community. If youjust let business owners come to the area without at lease approaching them and asking if they’d be willing to support block clubs, community groups and after school programs, then you’re lowering your standards. As we lower the standards we live by, unfortunately, we also lower the standards and expectations for our community.
We are more than the individual choices we make. We are product of our environment—unfortunately, the choices we make are creating an environment that holds us back. Instead of thriving, we are struggling to survive, trying to keep our heads above water. Our moral and psychological inhibitions to consume (buy, buy, buy) that mentality has attracted ads that cater to that environment that holds us back, and over time, after seeing the billboards we become used to them being their. Instead of standing out they turn into subliminal messages. (RADIO EXAMPLE)
It’s just like the billboards, we see them so often that we don’t know why on pay day we’re heading to the liquor store Hey, let me get that coconut tequila and pineapple juice. All the sudden you got the taste for Little Debbie snack flavoured Smirnoff Vodka. Come on man. It’s the same with the helicopters that fly by at night. We hear them so often that they’ve become a rhythm of the community. You open your paper and read a blog in the morning of a teen being shot and your numb to the disappointment, we’ve built a mental chalice up for the danger we face, we’re desensitized to the madness. You hear a shooting, wake up, and go right back to sleep.. And when you do that, you’re not different than the pigeons that walk up to people in the Jewels parking lot on 87th. Just oblivious to the pitfalls of your environment.
I stand before you today to tell you that you have a choice to build yourself up or let it bring you down. You get to decide whether liquor or education is your escape. You get to choose whether you want to get out and the world and network to earn a pay check (NETWORK) or get caught up in the cycle of high-interest loans. Individually, these are decisions we all get to make—collectively, these decisions will affect everyone in the 6th Ward.
I am an example of you. I know what it’s like to be an African American facing a bleak future. Like Martin Luther King, I’m fighting to make my dreams come true. I dream of a community where I can walk my little girl to school. The 6th Ward was once a role model for the nation and………. I’m tired of talking about that because the media doesn’t cover that. Let’s jut talk about what it is, so you’ll know about it. Today, we are sadly becoming a symbol of a community in decline, with increasing crime, unemployment, and resignation. As a result, we accept the drug-sniffing dogs on 79th and the Dan Ryan as a sign of the times, rather than accepting our responsibility to become part of the solution.
What is the solution? You don’t have to be an elected official to know the solution, you don’t have to have a law degree to know the solution, you don’t have to have a P.H.D. to know the solution. I know the solution because I’m a living example of the solution. First, we must find the motivation to make different choices. What really moves you? What makes you go hard in the paint. Is it basketball, rapping, it was for me. What is it for you. You have to find out what it is and use that as fuel to rise above your surroundings, much like our forefathers rose above their circumstances to create a community built on pride.
If we want to control our own destiny, rather than letting circumstances control us, we have to spend money wisely. Yes, we have money.last year in the 60619 zip code we spend over 20 million dollars in lottery tickets. Meanwhile this library needs to be renovated. We’re asking teens to come in and solve windows 8 issues while using outdated technology. Windows xp and vista. I know the signs outside says that help is coming. There just waiting for the chemicals in the ground to clear up before the city renovates the place. But we shouldn’t have to wait for the manna to fall from the skies of city hall before we act. This is Chatham. We don’t wait for things to happen, we make things happen. In 1968, this community raised $80,000 for a healthcare clinic because the local services were inadequate. 1968, $80,000. Collectively, we spend more than that on our lawn care per month. With a plan that I have, we can build a community supported library and choose what books belong in it. Choose what technology goes in it.
I’m reminded of a JFK Quote. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” We should be thinking, ask not what alderman sawyer can do for you but what can you do to help out alderman sawyer. Ask not what state rep Simms can do for you but what can you do to help out state rep Simms. Every choice we make and every dollar we spend has the ability to lift us up or bring us down. We need to get our heads out of the short-term and into the long-term, so our children, and our children’s children, will be proud of the achievements we made, in spite of the challenges we had to overcome. That is the type of pride that we celebrate during Black History Month—that is the type of pride I want future generations of the 6th Ward to celebrate when we pass the torch of community pride onto them.
Will it be easy? No, it won’t. It’s going to take a wilful determination and hard choices to create real change. Can it be done? Yes, just as our ancestors rose out of slavery, we can rise above the vices that enslave us, one choice at a time.
First, let’s choose to become active. We have to in-still pride and motivation in our youth. Let’s invest our money in our schools and technology that will open our world beyond the boundaries of the 6th Ward. Let’s make progress and move into the 21st century with fresh ideas and solutions, rather than outdated policies that aren’t effective. Let’s count on ourselves, rather than the drug-sniffing dogs, to change the culture and climate of our streets.
As we celebrate Black History Month and the progress of our ancestors we cannot become complacent. We have to move into the future and not stay stuck in the past. Everything we need to flourish is right here. Immense talent and a rich past reside together in our community. We must break down our mental walls of young and old and community group affiliation and work together to create the legacy we want to leave behind. Our tomorrow starts today, and it starts with the choices we make. Individually and collectively, we have the power to write our history … one choice at a time.