Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gangsta Chic and Wasted Lives

A brilliant young woman from Brooklyn will not be attending her graduation from Harvard University next month. A cloud of unanswered questions hangs over her head concerning a shooting that occurred on campus on the premises of Harvard University on May 18. The New York Post reports as follows about the shooting aftermath that has left a bright Brooklyn coed with her future up in the air.

"Chanequa Campbell, 21, has been banned from the campus and told she won't be graduating with her class next month as authorities continue to investigate the murder of Justin Cosby, her lawyer said.

"I'm hurt and I'm confused," Campbell told The Post last night. "For me not to be graduating is frustrating."

"Harvard is doing this to me because I'm black, I'm poor and I'm from Brooklyn."

Investigators suspect Campbell used her swipe card to help Cosby -- who lived in Cambridge but did not attend the university -- gain access to the locked dorm to sell drugs on campus, the sources said."

Justin Cosby, reputed to be a pot dealer was shot by three men in a robbery that went terribly wrong. Entry to the area in which Cosby was killed was restricted through the use of student ID's. The evidence generated by the card and other evidence raised questions about Campbell and another girl named Brittany Smith, who is a girlfriend of one of the men accused of murder. Smith has been permitted back on campus and cleared to graduate. Unfortunately for Campbell, there are questions to be resolved before she can be even permitted on campus.

Campbell was highly regarded at the jobs she worked to help pay school expenses. She is a National Merit Scholar with three scholarships from Goldman Sachs, Coca Cola and The New York Times. Her lawyer was extravagant in his praise for his troubled client when he spoke with the New York Post, which reported as follows on his interview with them.

"I've been practicing law for almost 17 years and have rarely come across someone as highly educated and articulate as Chanequa," said her lawyer, Jeffrey Karp.

He said his client worked four jobs to pay for her education.

"Harvard is being cold and callous," the lawyer said. "What they have done to Chanequa is equivalent to having your house foreclosed and losing your job on the same day."

I do not doubt for one minute that Chanequa Campbell is a promising young woman. I am as puzzled as she is that the other woman linked by witnesses to the alleged killers is graduating with classmates while she sits in limbo. She is getting a harsh education not only from Harvard but from the school of life.

Ms. Campbell is, according to records a hard worker at her jobs and on her schoolwork. You need a lot more than a pretty smile to land three prestigious scholarships and become a National Merit Scholar.

There is a third area in which there are serious questions about Ms. Campbell's fundamental skills, and that is her choice of companions. She has been seen with some pretty rough characters, some of whom now stand accused of murder. Someone was the weak link who betrayed the Harvard community by admitting criminals to restricted areas. And now instead of being questioned by professors about a dissertation, she is being questioned by police about a murder.

Ms. Campbell is taking a tough rap now. I would not presume to pass judgement about what happened. Whatever is uncovered by law enforcement will be followed with interest by the public.

Part of getting ahead in life is choosing good friends. This is one area in which Campbell could benefit from remedial study.

We as a society worry a lot about creating an appetite for cigarettes. To remedy this, we have banned cigarette ads from television and radio. Unfortunately, there is a gangsta drug culture with music and an image that is being promoted to our nation's youth. The body count associated with this culture of misogyny, violence and death mounts daily. In some inner city neighbourhoods, there are more young men in prison than in university. If we do not banish this gangster culture from public airwaves, we should at least ban it from our homes.

There is no shortage of role models in the minority communities. There are teachers, doctors and police. Doors are opening and millions are passing through. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has a long way to go in packaging as attractive some of the life affirming vocations pursued by millions of African Americans.

I have seen local kids head upstate not to university but to prison. I have seen confused young women who mistake violence and lawlessness for manhood. The risks of diseased relationships and sexually transmitted diseases from such poor choices of friends are painfully obvious to the dispassionate observer.

It is fortuitous that the daily staples of life in Brooklyn have penetrated the ivy decked inner sanctum of Harvard Yard. The echo of real gunfire has a resonance that is sorely lacking in a scholarly tome. There should be soul searching at Harvard to match the ongoing police investigation.

There are a lot of opportunities for people like Smith and Campbell and even Justin Cosby. And there are plenty of pitfalls as well. The murder of Justin Cosby will not be in vain if the proper lessons are learned from it. The murder of Justin Cosby begs somber reflection in order that more young lives not be sadly wasted in the future. Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

Your article was generally a good read, and you are generally right about what happened I was in a class with Chenequa in the fall, and as two of a small group Harvard students with some hip-hop flavor, we complemented each others' outfits. Back to the article. You copped out when you started talking about gangster culture and how we should ban it from our homes. If you knew two things about urban crime, you would know that the music is first a product of the environment, and only second a reinforcing factor in said environment. If you take hip-hop out of these communities, a lot of people will have nothing to live for...for me and others, hip-hop is life. To criticize the music is naive and childish, and shies away from the real problems (a hint of your journalistic negligence is evident when you discuss how there are "plenty" of good role models in minority communities). I'm done with you, and if Chenequa sold drugs, it wasn't because she loved hip-hop. It was because she needed the money. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, fool.

Magdeburger Joe said...

I have heard good hip hop that does not fit the negative mold. I am not criticising the genre but the use to which it is put.
Reflecting reality is only one role of art. Art can also step back and attempt to direct and focus. I am not rejecting the medium but the moral message.
There are indeed plenty of professionals as well as people who have turned their lives around. My children turned me on to some very positive hip hop. My personal preference is Reggae and Afro pop. My one artistic criticism of music in the African American community is that music from Africa gets almost no play time. Go on You Tube. Check out Lucky Dube, Kojo Antwi and Ismail Lo. Lucky Dube was powerful. His music has a powerful message that survived his untimely death. Check out the music. Also think about music as an instrument of change rather than simply a mirror. Lucky (May G-d rest his soul) reflected this