By James Clingman
The dominance of social media and our never-ending thirst for faster ways to communicate have relegated many of our people to a 140-character mentality, a nano-second way of thinking, and new ways of saying old things. Using letters instead of words to express ourselves, i.e. LMAO, OMG, SRS, SMH, has propelled us into an esoteric realm of information that in many cases has caused a communication gap between generations. The art of writing is steadily falling by the wayside and, in my opinion, it is to our detriment.
I understand trends, evolution of language, and new ways of expression. We did the same thing in my generation. Of course, we did not have instant access to one another via the Internet, but we did make up new words and phrases sometimes just to throw the adults off and keep them from knowing what we were talking about. But with all of our “jive-talk” and slang, we never lost the appreciation for language, reading, and writing. We also continued to hone our skills at expressing our thoughts through words, which resulted in many excellent and timeless books, poems, and spoken word. Just listen to Gil Scott-Heron.
I love the young brother, Richard Williams, better known as Prince EA, and his YouTube video titled, “Can we auto-correct humanity?” He speaks to issues related to our capitulation to brevity in our communication with one another. He says, “Touchscreens have made us lose touch.” He says we rely too heavily on the “Anti-social network.” He longs for, “Conversation without abbreviation,” and points out the, “Attention span of average the adult is one second lower than that of a goldfish.” This is from a young man who sees the danger of our constricted conversations and lack of time to read, write, and actually talk to one another.
Simply put, we must not discard our great writers and the vaults of information and knowledge they have left us. We must not overlook those who are writing great books, articles, and essays today. We must not turn our backs on our print media, or refuse to listen to conscious radio, both terrestrial and Internet-based. We must continue to empower ourselves with history, current events, and spoken word by young folks such as Prince EA, Janette…ikz, and others who are worth spending more than a few seconds listening to. I am sure they write down their words before performing them.
We must not allow writing to become obsolete; that would be an affront to the pantheon of Black writers who have passed on and those who continue in that tradition. With that in mind, and in light of the fact that we have allowed our Black bookstores to close all across this nation, let’s recommit to the oral tradition of our ancestors and to the written tradition of our forebears.
After all, where would we be without the cavalcade of stars that include Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Baldwin, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Robert Maynard, and hundreds of others?
In order to teach our children and grandchildren the importance of taking the time to read and write, we must, ourselves, take the time to learn what we want them to know. While we are now able to find virtually anything on the Internet, and while we are able to “tweet” our way through life without regard to expanding our minds and our abilities, we must slow down. We must reclaim our penchant for reading a good book and writing down our thoughts that could turn into a good book.
Where is the Blackonomics application in all of this? Glad you asked. Buy a Black book from a Black bookstore, and if it’s available, have a cup of coffee or tea and stay a while to read that book. You know, the way you do at Starbucks and other places. Support Black book fairs not only by attending but also by buying the authors’ books. Subscribe to Black newspapers and periodicals, and promote them by insisting that firms with whom you do business advertise in those media.
Finally, support Rosie Milligan’s Black Writers on Tour, coming on April 18 in Carson, Calif. See Blackwritersontour.com for more information. Who knows? You may be the next great author to bless us with knowledge and inspiration.
If, 50 years from now, all you have left are Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook messages to read, you will have denied yourself the pleasure of enjoying and sharing with your progeny your own stories, your own knowledge, your own history, in your own words. Just as “Reading is fundamental,” so is writing. Support Black writers.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, Blackonomics.com.