THE AUDACITY OF AMBITION – A CLOSING REFLECTION ON YOUTH MONTH 2017
June 30th, 2017
Reading time: 3 Minutes
I recently spoke at the Facebook Africa Youth Enterprise day in Turbine hall Johannesburg. This event was among many other events that have taken place during the month of June in celebration of youth month. June 16, 1976, Marked a moment in South African history where students revolted against Afrikaans as the primary medium of instruction. It can be said that these students had hopes, dreams and ambitions that they firmly believed would be hampered by being taught in a language that they were not familiar with. We salute that generation.
The Blueprint was an album released by Shawn Carter and it is a music revolution that started to crystalize the ambitions of the hip-hop movement in the United States. For many years hip-hop represented all things unsavory about America – violence, excess and a general disregard for the rule of law. In just a few years, hip-hop has permeated every aspect of the American dream and now represents ambition, excellence and success. However, there were a handful of visionaries that led this revolution with lyrics and the ingenious application of street commerce.
In the album, there is a song (which I am listening to as I am writing this piece) and it it’s called “U don’t know”. It’s almost a conversation with himself trying to psyche himself up to get up and take on the world.
I’m from the streets where the hood could swallow ’em
And bullets’ll follow ’em
And there’s so much coke that you could run the slalom
And cops comb this shit top to bottom
They say that we are prone to violence
But it’s home sweet home
Where personalities clash and chrome meets chrome
The coke prices up and down like it’s Wall Street, holmes
But this is worse than the Dow Jones, your brains are now blown
All over that brown Brougham, one slip, you are now gone
Welcome to Hell, where you are welcome to sell
See full lyrics here.
The musical lyrics above paint a bleak picture of the place he was raised. Among other things, he mentions, drugs, violence and guns like they were just a part of growing up and day-to-day life. This picture is actually a common experience among many Africans in locations, compounds and townships on the continent. A number of young Africans can identify with the common context of harsh environments and broken social systems that extinguish potential like dimmed candles on a daily basis.
What I found fascinating is that in the middle of the song he also says –
“Put me anywhere on God’s green Earth and I will triple my worth”.
I couldn’t help but wonder what mind state that you need to be in to make a statement like that against a backdrop as discouraging and crippling as the one he describes in so much detail in the preceding bars of the track. It’s almost as if he had the audacity to believe in himself. I mean, in a system set to perpetuate your demise and to orchestrate your failure, how dare you speak of value? How dare you think about any other place on this earth than the one that you were born into? And how dare you speak of not only creating value, but tripling your own worth?
Actually, how dare you NOT to?
This is the audacity of ambition that young people so desperately need.
Like the hip hop movement was in the US, Africa has gained in global popularity across most industries. There are now seven African countries among the fastest growing economies in the world. The world is looking to Africa for design & music inspiration, architecture, arts and culinary inspiration. These are all signals that the tipping point is here for Africa.
The question is who will own Africa’s Commercial and Cultural narrative?
This audacity to dream beyond your current circumstance, The audacity to refuse the bar that was set for you, but to set your own and the audacity to own the future of our continent. This is a responsibility that we all have as young Africans.
As we stand at the precipice, I believe, it is this audacity of ambition that will make Africa the great continent it deserves to be. I believe that it will be through the participation of young Africans all over the world who have the same audacity of ambition that we will move the needle for humanity in our lifetime.