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The Ludacris Foundation: Keeping dreams from being deferred

By Vickie G. Hampton

The young high school student who came in one of the two busloads of at-risk students from Atlanta’s Douglass High School asked a question that, for all its simplicity, burrowed straight through all the complex rhetoric and lamentations about what is ailing discouraged African American youth and got to the core of the issue.

“How do you dream when a lot of the people around you aren’t dreaming?”

The advice—which come from a panel of African American male entertainers, motivational speakers and educators convened by the Ludacris Foundation on Nov. 2 in the Leadership Center to speak on “Dreams, Resources, Reality"—touched on a lot of the obstacles that typically defer dreams, from lack of education to self-imposed constraints.

“Focus on your dreams and you can get anywhere,” said Christopher Bridges, the rapper and actor better known by his Ludacris moniker. Bridges advised that the youth get a well-rounded education.

“Combine street smarts and books smarts,” he said. “Education comes first—that’s very important. But it is also important that you educate yourself outside of school. I went to Georgia State, majored in business. I don’t consider myself a rapper or an actor. At the end of the day, I consider myself a businessman.”

Other panelists included several members of the cast of the BET T.V. series “College Hill” and Morehouse alumnus Eric Troy ’84. Approximately 20 Morehouse students also were in the audience. The event was taped and will air on BET on an undetermined date.

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond III, son of civil rights icon and Morehouse graduate Julian Bond ‘71, advised students to lay claim to their own dreams.

“People around you try to define you by your parents. I am the only one of my siblings to dare to go into politics,” he said. “There is a powerful push on you to follow in your father’s footprints. But, as an individual, I had to decide for myself where my life and services would be.

Another panelist, Eric Troy ’84, director of the Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male at The Ohio State University, said that those who aspire to mentor young black males must tune up their listening skills.
“Too many people want to talk too much and never ask the young black male what’s going on,” he said. “When they tell you, you have to be prepared to deal with it with wisdom and knowledge.”

Many of the panelists also talked about myriad constraints that keep African Americans, in particular, from dreaming. One panelist commented that many blacks are unable to dream because they haven’t seen wealth. “We play ball, but haven’t been to a professional game.”

Constraints are put on us by parents, friends, the society and, perhaps more pervasively, by ourselves.

Panel moderator Jeff Johnson, former BET talk show host, likened it to the family potluck dinner where everyone is asked to bring a dish and there’s always this one person who shows up empty-handed.

“A lot of us claim we have dreams, but show up with no dish, no cups, no napkins, no forks. But we want to eat.

“If you have a dream, you have to bring something to the table.”

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