By Brian Turner
One of my favorite movies is New Jack City. In this classic 1990’s film, we see Gee-Money (Allen Payne) and Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) of the Cash Money Brothers (CMB), planning to be rich, famous, and powerful by pledging to rein terror on the city of New York with their murderous drug trade under the infamous Cash Money motto… ‘I am my brother’s keeper!’ Ultimately, CMB’s fall illustrates that no matter how hard we try, one cannot be his brother’s keeper in a life of crime. The demise of CMB is becoming common on our streets as violence, murder, poverty, and innocent bystanders spoil our communities.
I use the title ‘He ain’t heavy’ as a reference to the fact that we as a community can no longer sit nonchalantly, shake our heads and sigh, as brothers completely fail, collapse, or die. We must reach out and lend a hand to our brothers in their struggle to survive. Specifically, we must combat the contamination of self hatred, where young black men see each other as the enemy…. as AN enemy…. This infirmity must end now!
Little boys on the playground, playing sports and games, must be taught to help each other, pick each other up, be nice to friends, family, and neighbors, and play fairly. Unfortunately, between being toddlers and teenagers brothers begin to view each other as enemies. Young men are adopting gang affiliation, criminal enterprise, and non-conformist/anti-community ideals as a result.
With continued decreases in funding for education, social services to help families in need, and rehabilitative programs for lawbreakers returning to society, there should be no confusing the resulting increases in violence among young black men or their actions toward society as a whole. We no longer need to guess or debate the source of the problem…. we need solutions.
Who among us will sacrifice personal wealth, individual gain, and the lure of fame to save his brother? When I think about Gee- Money and Nino Brown in New Jack City, they were ‘brothers’ exploiting others through the drug trade and their relationship was destroyed by greed (as well as the inherent dangers of selling dope, murdering people, and living illegally). However, the message of black male survival should not be lost. Nino and Gee needed each other!!
We must restore pride and honor in young men. We must restore a sense of interdependence, a connection to one another, within our community, our families, and our young men. WE can no longer blame others (i.e. the ‘Man,’ absent fathers, detached mothers, mean teachers, or overbearing systems) for all of our problems, when we’re not trying to resolve our problems ourselves.
Today, we need brothers to come together even more. Ultimately, the pace of today’s society, the demands of our economy, and the survival of our community are the impetus for us to get our acts together.…take the time, look your brother in the eye…can you accept the duty…the responsibility… to be your brother’s keeper?