04CoolioI walked out to the street recently and picked up my copy of The Fayetteville Observer. There was the headline, “2018 Dogwood Festival features rap, rock, country.” I was saddened, but not surprised, to see that rap artists will be featured at this year’s festival. In what follows, I explain the reasons for my sadness … and that sadness runs deep.

With a 13-year-old black girl who I mentor, I am reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey. Early in the book, Covey addresses the importance of paradigms in the life of a person. He writes, “A paradigm is the way you see something; it’s your point of view, frame of reference or belief. Sometimes our paradigms are way off the mark, and, as a result, they create limitations. For instance, you may be convinced that you don’t have what it takes to get into college. But, remember, Ptolemy was just as convinced that the earth was the center of the universe.”

Later in the book Covey says, “Paradigms are like glasses. When you have incomplete paradigms about yourself or life in general, it’s like wearing glasses with the wrong prescription.”

Therein is the reason for my sadness. With absolutely no reservation, I contend that the appearance of rap artists at the Dogwood Festival will likely substantially contribute negatively to the formation of paradigms by black attendees. This might also be the case with some whites, but my focus here is on black attendees. My concern, my sadness, is not only driven by the personal appearance of and lyrics employed by most artists in this genre, but also by how rap came to the Dogwood Festival.

In November 2016, I wrote a column titled, “Dogwood Festival Music Diversity: An opportunity for exercising leadership.” That column is available at www.karlmerritt.com/category/articles/page/3. I relayed how some members of Fayetteville City Council were pressuring the Dogwood Festival executive director and board of directors to diversify the music offerings. I think “pressuring” is a rather mild way of describing what was done. At the bottom line, they called for including music genres that appealed to blacks. Even beyond diversity in music, there was a not-so-subtle call for including blacks on the board of directors.

I saw this as local government making demands on a very successful effort that was started by volunteers, and with very minimally paid staff – it is carried primarily by volunteers. The formula for success, from my vantage point, was one that focused on country music, a family atmosphere, financially supporting worthy causes, helping make Fayetteville attractive for business and promoting economic growth. Then-Mayor-pro-tem Mitch Colvin, now mayor, argued that the city was providing police and other support to the festival. Read my November 2016 column to get what I believe is a thoughtful response to that argument.

have no doubt that what I have summarized here, and presented in detail in 2016, resulted in the Dogwood Festival adding rap to the entertainment lineup. Simply put, in the name of diversity, I believe that they were forced to do it. My observation is that any time there is a call for diversity, charges of racism immediately follow if white Americans do not instantly provide whatever is demanded. Although used routinely and far too often without foundation, the racism charge has great power.

Looking at all of this, I would argue that the message received by black Americans is: Do not invest in organizing, in building anything of worth … just force your way in on what others have built and organized. Even though implementing your desired changes might jeopardize the ongoing success of what is in place, demand the changes anyway – in the name of diversity. You have this right because of past discrimination, slavery, being disadvantaged, constituting a certain percentage of the population and a multitude of other reasons.

Let there be no doubt – the message described in the preceding paragraph contributes to creating paradigms in individuals. The resulting paradigm is the kind that allows one to believe it is acceptable to, in protesting, burn down businesses owned by people who had absolutely nothing to do with whatever started the protest. From the black perspective, this seeming license to force one’s way into what has been built by whites feeds a view of self as victim and whites as the enemy.

All of this is not only destructive to the individual, but also to our nation. I see the pressure process that, I believe, brought rap to the Dogwood Festival as a prime example of contributing to negative paradigms in people, especially black Americans. Seeing this process play out is a saddening experience for me.

Then there is how I believe the personal appearance of, and lyrics presented by, these artists will likely negatively affect paradigm formation among attendees. Consider Coolio, one of the rap artists scheduled to appear. What follows are a few lines from his rap “Is this me?”

Mossberg Smith and Wesson

Forty-five let me tell you how I learned my lesson

House party in the hood at some niggas I don’t know

But I had to go they had a house full of hoes

I stepped into that party with my nigga high off that head

The hoes is looking good so we try to make a friend for night

Let’s get it right let’s get it straight”

Then, the song ends with these lyrics:

“These streets won’t let me go

I can’t escape this life

That they got me trapped inside

This really really really ain’t me

But the streets won’t let me go

I can’t escape this life

That they got me trapped inside.

Granted, these are just snippets of a Coolio rap. However, they provide a sense as to what will likely be presented in what has been a family-oriented event. I do not see any reason to believe lyrics of this type help develop positive paradigms that are critical to successful living. Instead, just the opposite can reasonably be expected. That is sad.

Please visit coolioworld.com/photos and view photos of Coolio. Doing so is essential to understanding and appreciating the case I am making in this paragraph. In my estimation, except for one photo of him in a suit, Coolio presents himself in a fashion that does not inspire selfrespect, self-worth or any of the other attributes conducive to successful and responsible living. Consequently, personal appearance will likely be another negative input to the paradigms of many in the audience.

I have used Coolio in explaining my sadness regarding rap at the Dogwood Festival. However, be assured I have the same concerns in reference to rap artists in general. That is because all of them, that I have seen, pose the same threat to positive paradigms as I have presented here.

In the midst of my sadness, I find hope in knowing that I will do everything in my power to ensure that the kinds of forces described above do not influence the paradigm development of that 13-year-old black girl I mentor. If people across this nation do not take a similar stand, we will continue to see young lives destroyed due to failure-producing paradigms.

Photo: Coolio


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