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We Weep for the Generations Lost

An Inspirational Vitamin

by Shani K. Collins
Atlanta, Georgia

Shani K. Collins.
Shani K. Collins.
The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the Land of Egypt. But, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers (Jeremiah 16: 14-15)

He was scarcely four-feet tall with childlike, chocolate-colored skin. His nose was runny from a summer cold. His eyes were big, bright, illuminating, and fixated on a faux platinum chain which hung from a shelf-top display in a local Atlanta dollar store. Bobbing his six-year old head, he sang: bling, bling . . .bling, bling . . . all while gazing at the shiny necklace. We were oblivious to him as he grooved to his self-made beat. In a trance, he looked intently at the platinum necklace and delicately touched its smooth, shiny surface as if his world and his future were inherently connected to all that it afforded and symbolized. He was adorable and we onlookers could not conceal our amusement at his childhood fascination and excitement.

That this little black boy was so enthralled about the possibility of owning a platinum chain at the age of six unnerved me. It unnerved us all. I directed my attention to his mother who was ahead of me in the check-out line. She had his same bright eyes. I noticed her earlier when I was shopping. She was talking about women who were grandmothers at the age of 35. She told another woman that she had her first child at 19 and that her mother had, had her at 18. She said that she did not want to become a grandmother at an early age, but she feared that she would.

The child’s energetic voice startled me from my thoughts about his mother’s conversation. Commanding attention, he said: bling, bling, bling, bling, Momma! That’s what I’m gonna have when I grow up. With an alarmed, yet cautious stare, the rest of us silently observed the interaction between the bright-eyed child and his young, black mother. Noticing our stares, the young mother nervously laughed and said to her son: well, baby, when you get a job you can have those things.

But I knew better; we all knew better. I thought to myself, if she does not train him now, the streets will train and claim him later. At the age of six, this young, black boy’s perception of life centered on materialistic possessions. There was no doubt in my mind that his self-image and his world view were being influenced by his social milieu and by the images he had viewed on television.

I wanted to grab the child by the shoulders, look him squarely in those bright, cocoa-colored eyes and speak positive words to him. I wanted to tell him that his future was infinite and that he was not defined by his surroundings or his circumstances. I wanted to tell this young, black boy that he would be a strong, God-fearing, educated, intelligent, successful black man when he grew up and that he would impact the world simply through his existence.

I wanted to tell him all the many encouraging things that I had been told as a young, black girl growing up in the Mississippi Delta. I wanted to tell him all of the positive affirmations that every black child needs to hear, but I did not. I simply said a prayer for him and his mother as they prepared to leave the store.

His young mother was raising him and herself, too. She was doing the best she could while trying to keep her head above the water. Yet, her sweet, precious, gifted, black child was being persuaded by the deadly appeal of a fast lifestyle filled with platinum jewelry and other material possessions.

He was far too young to understand that he was valuing one of the many things that has been instrumental in destroying the lives of black youth for years -- symbols of social status.

He was far too young to understand that the platinum chains worn by the rappers in hip-hop videos have ultimately cost them their souls and their integrity. While he was far too young to understand, he was not too young to be influenced.

As his mother exited the store, our eyes met and I saw the uncertainty and the fear they possessed. She was afraid for her young, black son and she had every right to be. My heart wept for them on this day and my heart continues to weep for the generations lost.

Far too many tears have been shed over our young, black men and women. As black folks, we have been crying since slavery and I wonder if the tears will ever stop flowing. Blood continues to be shed over our black youth -- God’s beautiful, sun-kissed children -- His anointed ones. And we are all lost. We are all the victims. And we all cry the same tears.

We are all black folks---weeping, wailing, and mourning together over the generations lost then, and over the generations lost now. We weep for the generations of young, black men and women trapped in the ghettos of their own minds, struggling for peace, searching for a way out.

We weep for the young, black folks who have lost their souls because they do not know God. We weep for the wanna-be’s who pimp the streets and sell their souls in an effort to belong. We weep for the young, black men who look to gangs for fatherhood. And we weep for the young, black women who exploit their bodies in the name of love.

We weep for the black grandmothers of 35 who are too young to impart wisdom to the next generation of youth. And we weep for the generation of lost black youth who will never live past the age of 25.

We weep for any black child whose potential is wasted and cast out into the gutters, the streets, the alleys, and the sewers of life.

We weep for the black child who never receives a hug. We weep for the black child who never hears I love you. We weep for the black child who is never told that he or she is something special.

We weep for the young, dying mothers who no longer embrace life. And we weep for the young, dying fathers who use to violence to hide their pain.

We weep for the young, black men and women who are addicted to hopelessness.

And we weep for those who have given up on life . . .

But mainly, we weep for the generations lost.

I hope that I cross paths with the little boy again and that his song will be different the next time. I hope that I will read about his college graduation and about his many notable contributions to the black community and to society at large. I hope that he will make his mother proud by setting new standards within his family.

While my hope and prayer is that every black child is loved, protected, and guided, I know that many will slip through the cracks of life.

I know that young, black men and women are coming into the world and leaving it far too early, without ever having made an impact.

I know that today’s black youth are being influenced by negative images and capitalistic values. Despite this reality, I know, trust, and believe that God loves and protects each and every one of them -- His anointed, sun-kissed children and that He still reigns in the midst of it all.

Some of us are members of the older generation of hard-workers, strong leaders, and prayer warriors. Others of us belong to the newer generation which is filled with hip-hop artists, urban youth activists, high-speed technology, and rap music. Irrespective of our generational order, our racial, our societal, and our God-given purpose remains the same.

We are responsible for each other and for the welfare of our black youth. We are charged to do more than criticize and blame. We are charged to mentor, to hug, to love, to educate, to discipline, to praise, and to pray for all the young, black men and women who are slipping through the cracks of life.

We must help them rise above their circumstances and maximize their God-given potential. We must lead by example and help make straight their paths.

We must be stewards of love and compassion and we must be quick to extend opportunity to our black youth. We must teach our young, black folks how to be community leaders and how to use their education and skills to benefit society.

Above all, we must serve as positive vessels of influence and strong voices of wisdom.

We must press forward in motivating our black youth, while continuing to lift ourselves.

We must steer them in the right direction and raise our voices to sing their praise.

And while we use our wisdom and influence to color their destinies . . .

And while we praise God for their very existence, let us always remember those whose lives will not be saved . . .

And let us never forget to weep . . . to wail . . . to mourn . . . and to cry for the generations lost.


Shani K. Collins is the 24-year old Founder/CEO of Black Protégé Enterprises, Inc. A native of Greenwood, Mississippi, she resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is completing her Master’s in Africana Women’s Studies from Clark-Atlanta University. She is a writer, poet, scholar, activist, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Published in In Motion Magazine June 25, 2006.