The common complaint we have as students is that our voices aren’t being heard, but in order to be heard we need first to make some noise.
I sat at home last Saturday night scrolling through Netflix for something to watch. While flicking past the I’ve-seen-these-before films, my eyes stopped on an image that almost immediately caught my attention. Two black hands bound by chains, in front of a decayed, white, concrete wall with the centre piece being “13th” in a starkly contrasting red. When I looked closer, I noticed one hand had the traditional :”chain-gang” cuff which led to the other hand locked by a modern handcuff.
This was something I had to watch. The documentary 13th turned out to be a fascinating documentary that gives insight into how the American constitution’s 13th amendment has been twisted and used as a tool of oppression. For those who do not know, the 13th amendment of the American constitution says all slavery is to be abolished “except as a punishment of crime”.
After it was finished, I felt incredibly impassioned and was ready to pour my soul onto the keyboard of my laptop. All the social injustice, the fight these key figures of the black community had endured and the constant struggle to allow the truth to be heard was about to surge through circuits of my computer in the form of a review. But as I was about to do so I sat back and asked myself, “Why do I feel like this?”. Was it the fact that I have been a strong advocate for equality all my life? As I sat there, I started to think about what it was that inspires me so strongly to express my views.
And I realised my inspiration for truth, passion and change comes from a place which many wouldn’t expect – rap music. Although a seemingly odd source, true rap music has always been a force for change, changing “the way we eat, the way we live and the way we treat each other”.
Rap music was born out of the very oppression depicted in13th. Now, I know many of you reading this will laugh, because what does a white boy from Sydney, who has been given every opportunity in life, understand about the struggles of an entire people who have been oppressed for centuries? My answer to that is simple: there’s no way I possibly could. But it was because of rap artists that I chose to pursue journalism.
For decades, I have been listening to the kind of music that professes the reality of which these people have been living and, believe me, it’s not all bling, money, and women. True rap is a statement about how even the poorest people can make it out of the worst situations, if you believe in something with enough conviction, and if you stand by that conviction no matter what.
This brings me back to why I decided to write this open letter. If 13th inspired me to get up and write, then my love for rap music and its impression on me ignited the thought process that relates to all journalism students at Macleay College.
If something inspires you, you should be jumping at the chance to express that passion. Too often I’ve been noticing a trend of complacency; fellow students skating through courses and barely showing up for classes and pitch meetings. I don’t write this as a complaining adult; I write this as a concerned student – I worry that some students don’t realise what we have, and the power for change we wield.
DuVernay’s documentary didn’t inspire me because it’s fashionable to jump on the bandwagon of Black Lives Matter, nor did it resonate with me because it aligns with my own personal beliefs. Instead, it struck a chord through the passion that came across in every single scene. The research, the interviews, the imagery and even the music are things we as students are learning about, but we need to be putting this into practice. How are we meant to reach those heights, and execute such powerful messages if we do not give this 100 per cent?
To me, 2pac was the greatest example of how you can be a truth-seeker, a journalist and a change-maker no matter your chosen field. He was a man who came from nothing, who had every right to hate and discriminate against everyone and everything yet chose to use the medium of music to promote positivity and enlightenment.
We have the best opportunity here to usher in a new wave of journalism, with newer technology and cultural shifts evolving all around us. Let’s not forget either, there are those less fortunate than ourselves who would do anything for the opportunity we all have at this college. Keeping things in perspective too, there are even those who would do anything to have a roof over their heads.
We’ve been given one of the most prestigious platforms in the world – the platform of journalism – which has been at the centre of almost every key event that has ever been. We, even as students, have the opportunity to shape things for the better and spark the flames for change. We only have to look at the way Muslim men and women are treated when walking through their neighbourhood, or how far people avoid indigenous people asking for a dollar on the street, to see that change is needed.
We are the ones who can reignite the passion, and it doesn’t matter what that change may be. Whether you’re fighting against animal cruelty, social injustice or even the way a fashion label pays its workers, whatever it is you are passionate about – you need to speak up.
The worst thing we can do is remain silent. – Phil Logan
Top image from Quotes website.