STATE OF THE (HIP HOP) UNION

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LOOKING FOR LEADERSHIP ELSEWHERE

By Jaylin Paschal

Tonight, Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union (SOTU) Address. Over a year in, and I'm still not convinced Donald Trump even wanted to be president. He droned on tonight in his awful, saddening tone of voice and discomforting mannerisms. He addressed the nation making promises no one believed and taking credit for work that is not his. More and more, it feels like the political landscape is depressive and dilapidating. He used buzzwords like "clean coal" which were all met with awkward standing ovations from creaky-kneed Republicans. His "merit-based" immigration policy was met with boos. He swore allegiance to and support for programs which his leadership has drastically cut the budgets for. He discussed increasing our nuclear arsenal, to our generals' dismay. He fear-mongered over terrorism and expressed his dedication to keeping Guantanamo Bay open through an executive order. He manipulated the pain of families to justify violence and imperialism at the hands of the American government.

In short, it was a shit show of conservatism. It was a demonstration of complicity and compromise. Democrats mostly sat and sulked. Tomi Lahren loved it, though. Watching it reminded me of why young people don't look up to current Congress members or contemporary political figures anymore.

Generally, millennials of color are not looking to politicians as leaders, but rather as figureheads or caricatures. Even those we admire, we "meme," like Rep. Maxine Waters, who did not attend the SOTU Address (or, more popularly, Auntie Maxine). Or activists/advocates like DeRay McKesson, who we associate moreso with his blue vest than his work. So who are we following; who are we looking to for advice, guidance and lifestyle aspiration? Who are we taking seriously?

Ask me who I admire and I'll tell you Shawn Carter and Sean Combs. I look up to Elliott Wilson and Steve Stoute; Missy Elliott and Steve Pamon. Because outside of connecting to them through their passion and relativity, I'm able to see and understand very plainly the ideological and tangible impacts they have on communities.

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In addition to preaching familial and economic responsibility in his most recent work, Jay Z flaunts black excellence through business ventures and events like the Roc Nation brunch. Jay Z appeared on CNN with Van Jones and discussed political issues like criminal justice reform. He's published articles on the New York Times on the war on drugs and the unjust imprisonment of Meek Mill. He's creating and providing a body of information which can serve as a frame of reference for young people looking to "make it" in America; and do good on their climb upwards. Jay Z is such an influential thought leader that the last president considered him a close friend, and the current president feels the need to "correct" his ideologies.

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Now, no one is expecting Hov to draft a comprehensive health care plan or for Diddy to outline immigration reform or for Troy Carter to end environmental racism. The governmental framework of America is still in the hands of the traditional political architects. The shift, however, is worth noting-- have our entertainers have become our leaders and our leaders our entertainers?

Jaylin PaschalComment