About a week ago I was sitting at the bar at The Hotel Presidente in Havana, Cuba. Devoid of any real connection to cell service or internet for two days at that point, I had stopped by the hotel off the Malecon to buy a one-hour internet card for five Cuban Pesos and plug back into the U.S. for awhile. As a self-described journalist I like to keep up with what's going on generally, and wasn't wholly surprised to see the two dominant headlines happening just over the embargo on that day: Donald Trump and a shooting in Chicago.
To be sure, if you spend any time in the Second city, both have been constants seemingly wherever you look for at least the last couple of years, the former a more recent tribulation. Sighing, I exited the protected bubble of ignorance not speaking much Spanish in Cuba afforded me, pulled my head out of the sand for a moment and waded into the shit once again. Having usually watched the news take it's course in real time, 21st Century-style from print to Twitter to digital outlet and back again, I arrived at these latest headlines decidedly behind the curve. It started with the senseless killing of Nykea Aldridge in Chicago's Parkway Gardens neighborhood on the city's west side as she wheeled her infant son. While a somberly common happening in a city that just experienced its most violent month in five years, the shooting stuck out because of its connection to Chicago native and current Bulls guard Dwyane Wade. Aldridge was his cousin. Because of that, it was widely discussed, used as a flashpoint for outlets to once again bring up the issue of gun violence plaguing the center of the country and the unique way in which the current generation is shaping the narrative.
What should have offered the latest opportunity to open a conversation into how better to serve communities where gun violence is an issue was instead robbed by a man who's never understood the words family or community. Yes, once again this year, Donald Trump, your concentrate version of the Baby Boomer's American Dream, the last stop on the long road of right-leaning capitalism, decided to add his two cents. In a true show of where the current election and, for that matter, the country as a whole is at, Trump tweeted about Aldridge's murder, citing it as evidence to why African-Americans should vote for him. The tweet, a week later, is still up, retweeted over 9,000 times.
Such is the misunderstanding not only of this candidate to the symptom of violence bestowed on particular parts of this country and city, but also a clear example of just how out of touch much of the country is with the issues facing its third largest metropolis. In a cover story for August for TheseDays, I touched on the cross-section of activism and hip-hop here in Chicago, citing it as perhaps the most important melting pot of each discipline we have nationwide today. It seemed appropriate, then, that with heavy heart and furrowed brow I reluctantly scrolled my news feed down further, uncovering the next headline, this one from CNN, who fittingly spoke to local artist William James Stokes, better known as Sir The Baptist, himself part of a growing conscious wave happening just off the shores of Lake Michigan.
Fresh off performing at Afropunk Festival in New York City the Bronzeville native had much to say about the recent comments from Trump, who predictably has not shown remorse for his comments, other than tweeting that Wade and his family were 'in his prayers'. At the Brooklyn fest, the young Chicago crossover act and Lollapalooza performer was joined onstage by a Trump impersonator he took to undercutting, acting as a perfect prop for songs like the capitalistically-leaning "Creflo (Almighty Dollar)" . Talking to CNN, Sir had this to say about the Republican candidate claiming to be the only choice for the African-American community:
"No one politician can relieve centuries of systemic racism and bigotry due to enslavement. It's time for us to ask the tough questions of Trump; to hold him accountable. He has no problem teasing us with promises of jobs and wealth on one hand while exploiting the community in the other, thinking it will deliver him our vote. He is the problem."
He's right, of course. There's no singular definitive answer to any of the problems that face us today the same way all race-based issues didn't disappear with the end of obvious segregation and Jim Crow from a generation previous. We find our country once again in a precarious, if not familiar position. It is fast becoming a war not solely of race, but of class and thought, a multi-generational affair that pits parents against children, teachers against students and may well erode the thin line of trust between young and old that has propped up the facade for too long. In Britain, a generation of what those over forty sneeringly call Millenials will be tasked with bearing the weight of their forefather's stupidity in the wake of the egregious blunder that is the Brexit. Meanwhile, as our own country stands on the edge of it's own hubris, it is increasingly clear that it is the young thinkers and artists that truly understand and empathize with the situations of the everyday man.
Within three swipes of a thumb I was immediately reminded of the sad, the ugly and the hope of our contemporary America. The current product of our country is an long-expired loaf of hate, spoiled long ago yet continuing to threaten the health of those who buy into it. What our country needs to do if it is going to emerge from this latest hurdle in any sort of progressive manner is, ironically, to heed the pleadings of a possible 2020 candidate. "Listen to the kids".