For most inner city students of color, college is a distant dream.
The thought of four more years of school is enough to discourage many inner city students from going for the gold in education. The military seems to be the golden ticket instead of college. In fact, 2 out of every 4 seniors I have counseled from the inner city intend to choose the military over college. Conversations of escaping current situations and making instant money surpass the collegiate pursuit. I am not bashing the military, as both of my parents were in the military – one of them, a retiree.
I do however find it alarming that many of our inner city students find fighting for their own education more exhausting than fighting for our country. My position in their life is to encourage personal growth and education by planting seeds of change and providing resources.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, in today’s economy those who have a Bachelor’s degree make roughly $1100 per week whereas those without a degree make roughly $651 a week. I show many of my inner city students this chart of earnings and unemployment rates to show them that not only would you make more money by obtaining their degrees, but also they are less likely to be unemployed than those who do not have a degree. In short, it is easier (but not guaranteed) to obtain and hold a job once you have a Bachelor’s degree.
Coincidentally, the interesting trend in rap music is adding a college degree to the repertoire.
For most of our inner city youth, finding out their favorite artist went to college and has obtained their degree sends a powerful message pointing towards the importance of academic achievement. This new backdrop on rap music is beginning to enhance the inner city culture. As music production, lyrics, industry happenings and technology grow more and more complex the following generation must adapt. I find an advantage in using these rappers as examples and benchmarks for most of the inner city youth I have counseled.
The world is also beginning to notice some of the most acclaimed or revered hip-hop artist have degrees. Not only are these artists living testimonies to defying the odds of the inner city but they are examples to follow (rappers being examples again, yikes!). I am excited that their life is actually a display of the alternative.
They prove that there is a reason for going for the gold in education.
In case you were wondering, USA Today and the Huffington Post share that Lil Wayne has a B.S. in General Studies, J. Cole obtained a B.A. in Business and a minor in Communications (Magna Cum Laude), David Banner obtained a B.A. in Business, Ludacris obtained a B.A. in Music Management, just to name a few. There are countless other top artist who are enrolled and have obtained honorary degrees and for many artists, college has added a new level of knowledge and expertise to their craft.
Whether honorary or with honors, the message of higher learning is being projected to young fans throughout the world, across many cultural barriers providing a new “notch” on the belt of greatness. It’s simple: if you want to stand out from the rest in your chosen field you’re going to need a degree or certification. Point blank. Today’s top artists are proving that and you cannot deny there is a correlation between top performing artists and their level of education.
The question most of my kids ask is, “why?”
The answer I give them is “because like most art forms, there is a medium to be used.” Within music, words are the medium used to reach people. According to this trend, education enhances one’s ability to manipulate the medium of music. Not only that, but acquiring business management tools requires schooling, art and business that seem to have a mutually exclusive relationship as well.
The better the artist, the more fans pay attention, the more fans pay attention, the more popularity and dollars fall into the pocket of artist. Once I talk about dollars, that’s when my inner city youth pays attention. Hook, line and sinker, got ’em coach! Then I usually say, “So would you like to attend a community college, trade, or a state school?”
To sum it all up, individuals with degrees make more money, keep their jobs longer, are less likely to be unemployed, and have an easier time obtaining new jobs than those who don’t. Music artists from the inner city have figured out that higher education is significant within the music industry, enhancing their craft and reaching more fans. It is undeniable that today’s top artists from the inner city have climbed to the top after their educational achievement.
Higher education is not so distant for inner city youth anymore. They may not have a single family member who went to college but they can listen to a graduate on any popular radio station and be touched, moved, and inspired by their “educated art-form.”
This morning I had ham and eggs with a handful of almonds and a protein shake for breakfast.
Author: Mark Blackshear