Too often, as a society, we insult our young people, labeling them as a lost generation. Here's a young man who has taken leadership in to his 11-year-old hands.
Jonathan E. McCoy gave a rousing speech earlier this year to his church in Baltimore about why our community needs to drop the 'N' word. His speech, "A New Petition," called for the discontinuation of that six-letter word, and the slang usage of the word.
"I'm sending a message to everyone who knowingly or ignorantly uses this word to describe our people, whether you're a gangster rapper who uses it to communicate with your boys, or someone who looks down on us who haven't got a college education," said the pint-sized orator. "Whatever the case, it's time to discontinue the use of this word. It is implausible that 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we still use this word that holds no worth in our lives nor our future."
Watch McCoy's speech:
According to his Facebook fan page, Jonathan has always been a gifted child. At an early age, he learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was immediately drawn to Dr. King's commitment to justice for all. Jonathan's early desire to effect change, inspired him to use petitioning as a way to call out injustice.
His first act of petitioning apparently involved hand washing. While in the second grade, says his Facebook profile, Jonathan asked his fellow classmates to sign a petition that would allow students the choice to opt out of the school's enforced hand sanitizer policy and instead wash their hands with soap and water. When his teacher found out about the petition, she settled the request in the children's favor.
Since presenting a "New Petition" to the 1,500 plus congregants at Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Jonathan has appeared on Black America Web with Tom Joyner, and spoken at numerous events around the country. Through his relationship with Morehouse College, Jonathan has promoted what is called a "Free Zone" initiative which discourages sagging, cursing, and use of the "N" word.
According to his fan page, Jonathan maintains a high GPA and has been the recipient of a plethora of awards, citations, and acknowledgments for his academic achievements. All of this comes at the encouragement of his parents, who support his talents.
So what's the big deal about using the N-word? The following photo essay provides some context. It examines the historical and contemporary expressions of racism, buffoonery and parody. It is not intended to incite hatred for anyone. It only serves as a didactic resource to the generations who don't understand the current pain over racism from the past.
Getty Images / Corbis / Authentic History Center / AP
Getty Images / Corbi / Authentic History Center / AP
Advertisement for an African-American slave sale.
Although the enslavement of mankind in general has been recorded as early as 1200 BC; the first African slaves were reportedly transported to the 'New World' in 1517. This is 76 years after the first black slaves were captured and taken to Portugal.
Bettmann / Corbis
African American Stereotypes: Products and Advertising c.1880s Tin of Nigger Hair Tobacco
For decades this product was sold in stores as chewing tobacco or for smoking. It was advertised as 'pure, unadulterated, fine old burley leaf.'
Topsy was a stereotypical pickaninny character in the book, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' Uncle Tom was a slave in the book. The term 'Uncle Tom' is recognized to be offensive and a derogatory name for a black man who is abjectly servile and deferential to whites.
Early definition of minstrel: a medieval poet and musician who sang or recited while accompanying himself on a stringed instrument, either as a member of a noble household or as an itinerant troubadour.
The black-face minstrel act was a very popular form of entertainment in 19th-century America. White audiences were receptive to the portrayals of Blacks as singing, dancing, grinning fools. T.D. 'Daddy' Rice, the original Jim Crow, became rich and famous because of his skills as a minstrel. Interestingly though, when he died in New York on September 19, 1860, he was broke.
African American Stereotypes: Products and Advertising 1899 Durkee's Salad Dressing advertisement, Harpers Magazine
Notice the broken English purportedly spoken by black Americans, 'We're gwine ter live high ter-night ...'
Advertisement for Clarence Brooks and Co.'s Fine Coach Varnishes uses racist stereotypes to depict a group of African-American adults and children as they cheer and watch two shirtless boxers, one of whom appears unconscious, accompanied by the text "the Championship Fight, Sullivan Wins," late 1800s. The Sullivan in the text is a reference to boxer John L. Sullivan, who fought bare-knuckled in several famous bouts.
Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images
Advertisement for the St. Louis Beef Canning Company features an illustration of a stereotyped African-American character sitting on a can of beef, accompanied by phonetically rendered, stereotypical dialect-style text that reads: 'No Sah! dont jine no Exodus so as dis Beef lasts,' late 1800s.
Showing blacks to massacre the English language, further perpetuated the false idea that African Americans were somehow unable to be educated.
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