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Essays on Civic Engagement

This Is Your Democracy

Only Time Will Tell

Greg Ashley Springfield

In high school I was called “Farrakhan X” because of how deeply I was into political music and messages. 

I remember being in an English class where we were reviewing the novel “The Scarlet Letter”. A discussion about Puritan culture prompted me to belt out, “Did the Puritans own slaves!?” The teacher replied that they didn’t. Actually, they did. In fact they fought to reduce their slaves’ civil rights. I learned this because I read up on it on my own. Now don’t get me wrong, the teacher was actually very nice, one of my favorites, but this just experience proved how important it was to find out for yourself. 

I would never have fathomed to even ask this question if it wasn’t for the influence of the music I was listening to. In the 80’s and 90’s, Hip-Hop had a profound effect on me. Its attraction came from just how different it was from anything else I had been exposed to. I listened attentively to rappers such as KRS-ONE, Chuck D and Brother J of X-Clan. What I took from them was that the government was for the most part NOT to be trusted, as it had devious hidden agendas, and was there to essentially keep the rich, rich and the poor, poor. 

I learned more about them in one song, “You Must Learn” by KRS-One, than I ever did in my years in school. I also learned about the importance of asking questions and being willing to educate myself.

What I also got from their lyrics was an education about my culture. I learned African contributions to the world and about Black inventors. I learned more about them in one song, “You Must Learn” by KRS-One, than I ever did in my years in school. I also learned about the importance of asking questions and being willing to educate myself.

Through these influences I was led to read such books as “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”. Although it wasn’t as accurate as I initially thought, I still got a lot out of reading it. I was also led to the music and writings of Gil Scott-Heron, and his work further increased my distrust of “The Powers That Be.”

Many years have passed since then. I’m not as fervent in my feelings as I was then. Why? Because I’ve accepted that things aren’t going to change. I mean they have, but not for the better. The music has gotten far away from what it was. The messages are the polar opposite of what they once were. One of the saddest things about that is in the age of technology where everyone has a world of knowledge in their hands, they don’t use it for much more than texting and games. My stance now is to try to do the best I can be as an individual and to reach a position where I can help others, however that may be. Only time will tell.

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