“I’m a hustler baby/I’ll sell water to a well”- Jay-Z. If Mr. Sean Carter took a stroll with me down Michigan Avenue this past weekend, even he might have been surprised by the ingenuity of today’s youth. As I strolled past the Chicago River on Wacker Drive I saw the beautiful Chicago skyline. Every time I take public transportation north of Roosevelt I’m always amazed at how the city magically gets cleaner. I digress. As I sauntered down Michigan Avenue last Saturday I saw capitalism at it’s finest. No not rogue capitalism. Bernie Madoff and Jack Abramoff are still incarcerated. I saw young Black kids using their varied talents to make money.
Although the city of Chicago may deem some of their business ventures hustles illegal (I saw two kids get citations for blocking the walkways), I look at them as creative ways for young folks to practice entrepreneurship. Heck if people can use exotic financial instruments to manipulate the free market, I believe kids should be able to use their talents to give them access to markets.
In a perfect world I would rather see young people of color working jobs that would give them access to healthcare and other benefits. However, we are still living in a time where employees who have worked the same job for 20 years are being forced to take days off while some are getting laid off. So in the meantime I say hustle on young brother/sister, hustle on. Let me clarify what I mean by hustle. You might take it out of context like a terrorist fist bump or a mosque in New York City. I’m not encouraging youngsters to engage in illicit activities, nor am I encouraging them to willfully disobey the law. I’m simply encouraging them to use their gifts to give them more power in this capitalistic society.
So back to my walk down Michigan Avenue. As I passed the Wrigley Building I saw two teenage age boys artfully playing John Coltrane. If there hadn’t been a bucket with a big money sign in front of them and a bunch of overzealous tourists taking pictures, I would’ve thought that I was in an intimate cabaret. The next block down I saw a crowd of about 100 people gathered around 5 young black males. As they pumped up the crowd with their witty banter I wondered what they were about to do. About 5 minutes later I saw a 16 year old boy flip across 5 people and land effortlessly on the concrete. Two minutes later they were given a citation by the police.
As I approached the Water Tower Mall I ran into two teenage boys performing a well choreographed dance to Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” in front of the Apple Store. Even Steve Jobs would’ve been entertained. As they popped and locked I didn’t just see future Alvin Ailey dancers, I saw future chief executive officers honing their crafts on the streets of Chi-town.
In the spirit of Adam Smith I encourage you to keep on hustlin’!