Article by David Dinan | Owl Staff
While the music video flashes between footage of political violence—from the 1960s unrest showing water cannons blasting crowds as police dogs bite protestors’ limbs, to video from 2020 showing police pepper-spraying protestors—Chuck D’s voice cuts through and summarizes his message to Maryland’s black youth; “Fight the Power!”
The video still playing, black students, administrators, and faculty from each Maryland community college filtered into the Zoom call. For the first time in its five-year history the Maryland Male Students of Color hosted its summit online. Through the limitations of technology, Chuck D shared his wisdom on race, politics, and education.
In the summer, there was a national sense of anger because of the direction the country was headed. “After George Floyd,” Chuck D said, “younger energy knew they were mad.” Thousands of young protestors spilled into the streets, enraged at what they had seen on social media.
2020’s summer mirrored 1967’s of the ‘long, hot summer.’ People were angry and took to the streets for the same reasons—police brutality and systemic racism. The rhetoric, too, stayed the same. After protests erupted across the nation, President Trump quoted Miami police chief Walter Headley’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” response.
As the protests grew in numbers, more people died because of police brutality. “First it’s Breonna Taylor, then it’s another page turned, with another name” Chuck D continued, “younger energy said…when is this gonna stop?” They marched through cities—Washington D.C., Minneapolis, and New York—to show that things needed to change.
Even with police departments breaking up protests, the young endured. “We’ve seen past generations look at this and say we gotta stop police brutality,” he said. “Younger energy said ‘Enough!’ and they marched on their locale all over the world.” Passion is important but for Chuck D—who studied design—it needs a clear plan.
“It’s like having a small fishing boat going into an ocean,” he continued, “you gotta know what to fish for.” Scholarship serves as one of the best ways to tackle societal issues. Through scholarship, younger generations can change the uneven landscape of American politics by combining their passion for education with a commitment to learn from the past.
With scholarship comes the opportunity to pass knowledge down to the next generation. “I feel like if I don’t have anything to teach,” Chuck D said, “I shouldn’t be speaking.” Educating the future based on one’s present experience and past knowledge is the objective of scholarship.
In the 60s, protestors and scholars helped to end segregation. Over 2020’s summer, protestors toppled symbols of oppression—statues of Confederate leaders, slave owners, and segregationists. By recognizing past generations’ success and failures, today’s youth can tackle the systemic issues by using their own will to create a better future.