The Future of Black History: Looking for Young Black Leaders

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Black history month has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  Reflecting on the astonishing achievements of a community whose history is full of disenfranchisement feels so empowering to me.

Though our ancestors have vigorously fought to accomplish what many would deem impossible, we as a people still have a number of tasks we must accomplish to becoming truly equal. This brings me to the present.  One day we will be black history. My mom’s generation has people like Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, and Ursula Burns who will represent their generation’s achievements in civil rights, politics, business, media and so much more.  Thinking about the strength and will power of the black leaders of my mom’s generation really makes me wonder, who will represent my generation in future black history months?

Obviously there’s no way I could possibly come up with an accurate answer to my question but when I think about and research how the black youth is represented today, I get mixed feelings and answers.  

On one hand we have The Root, which paints a beautiful picture of the future of my generation, highlighting and celebrating some of the most inspirational and intelligent young people I’ve read about with it’s annual “Young Futurists” list.

On the other hand we have mainstream news outlets, which are constantly highlighting the negative aspects of the black community.  While the news should not sugar coat the violence or crime that has plagued the black community, the black community is unfairly represented in the news.

Since the different media sources highlight black youth in different ways, I decided to look at the facts, because facts don’t lie, right? Well the facts were just as confusing as the different articles I read and news clips I watched. In 2010 1.7 million more blacks were enrolled in college then in 1990.  Although more of black youth are receiving a college education, the facts surrounding the incarceration of black youth are unbelievably sad. Although blacks make up 15% of the population, 26% of juvenile arrests and 58% of  the youth admitted to state prisons involve black youth, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

I’ll admit, when I first thought about this topic, I was discouraged about the future of black history because for years I have bought into the media’s portrayal of black youth.  While I know numerous of young black people who are actively working to better our community because the recognition these people get is almost nonexistent, I didn’t realize how much of an impact they are making.

I am confident that there will be black innovators and leaders in my generation, we just have to acknowledge them.

If you know someone who is young black and succeeding, acknowledge and congratulate them.  Encourage those who are struggling.  And support those who don’t see the potential that they do have.

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Alexis Jackson is a student at Vanderbilt University studying Creative Writing and Fine Arts. You can follow her on twitter @_alexisjacks.

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