By Brittney Elder, 23


A friend recently e-mailed me a piece by BYP contributor Jonathan Lykes entitled Who Will Lead My Black Generation? In the article he references a BET sponsored poll that asked “Who speaks for you?” Forty percent of the participants in turn responded “no one”. I came across these words and instantly felt my stomach drop. Those two small words were not just a statement of opinion but spoke as a stinging indictment against a generation of black leaders whose hands we have been placed into. Those words spoke of a lost and neglected child; a child who does not understand the concern and love of a caring parent.

And for far too long, this has been the reality for my generation.

We are the I-generation. A generation of people who glory in our individuality and possessions at the expense of building up our communities. We celebrate all things consumer and scoff at all things conscious. We spend our days living for the moment without concern for tomorrow. But who we have become is indicative of how we have been raised. The anemic sense of social consciousness amongst today’s black youth in many ways is a byproduct of the broken relationships between black leaders and the communities they serve.

For far too long the guardians of our communities have been absentee advocates; speaking on our issues while never taking part in alleviating the desperation of our day to day struggle. It’s not enough to do the occasional book signing, press tour, or lead a highly publicized rally. The responsibility of raising a child goes beyond the instance of an irregular visit. Time, commitment, and love is the context by which a child can grow into maturity.

And we, my generation, are those children who have been abandoned left to come into adulthood by way of Lil Wayne’s verses, Beyonce’s booty shaking, and the ill-advice of our peers and the world at large.

As I write this, I struggle with the question, “is it even the responsibility of black leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders?” And I can’t help but believe that the answer is yes.

The future of social change in our community is dependent upon the transformation of the relationships within our community. The older generation of freedom fighters offer a depth of wisdom and knowledge that we have yet obtain. And conversely, my generation has a modern sense of creativity and innovation that the older generation has yet to master. Together we have the ability to radically change the state of the black community.

It is my earnest hope that our black leaders would pause in their pursuit of personal ambition and legacy to stop and look into the eyes of the child of potential that stands before them. A child that – regardless of circumstance and waywardness – can become an agent of change that can dramatically impact the world in which we live.


So, Guardians are you listening? Guardians do you see? Your children are waiting for you to speak the mystery of life. Your children are waiting for you to walk in the truth of righteousness. Your children are waiting for you instruct us with a hand of patience and love. We are the eager runner, waiting for you to past the torch of your former glory.


We are willing, we are waiting; will you show us the way?