One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn was that all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. It’s difficult to wrestle against racism and white supremacy, but it’s even more difficult to do so when people of the same hue as you are investing in the problematic propaganda of that same supremacy that we all claim to be fighting. Many of my young Black peers complain that they'll take two steps forward in their purpose, and then the city seems to drag them 10 steps back just as they were gaining their momentum. It’s important to recognize, however, that sometimes you’re not taking backwards steps — somebody may have just, unbeknownst to you, put you on a conveyor belt that’s rolling in reverse. And skinfolk have a way of making conveyor belts that are rolling in reverse, look like escalators, especially when they know you think the only opportunities for elevation come with their stamp of approval. In order for our community, Naptown, to actually elevate and truly “empower the youth,” we must modify our definition of mentorship.
A code of conduct must be created within our community that places bounds on what we do and don’t endorse within our culture. White folks have mastered the art of policing our people. While I do not suggest that we police our people, we must be more intentional about what we allow to transpire within the walls of our various villages. Too many organizations, congregations and publications have power to create narratives that are doing more harm than good for “the youth,” and their efforts go unfettered because of the fault lines within the foundation of accountability that should lie at the heart of our community’s code of conduct.
Don’t take it from me, take it from one of the greatest thought leaders to grace God’s green Earth, Tupac Shakur. In a 1994 interview with BET’s Ed Gordon, Shakur talked about a number of things, including a lesson his mother taught him: Never voluntarily give yourself to the people because they’ll use you. As Black folks, we’ve normalized capitalizing upon each other because we’ve been capitalized upon so often, and this normalization backfires on our ability to create meaningful mentor-mentee relationships. Stomaching one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn, that all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk, came from understanding that mentorship must be molded from the 2Pacalyptic perspective.
Mentorship from the 2Pacalyptic perspective suggests that the model for true mentorship does not come in the form of “blessing young people” with the presence or partnership of historic organizations whose relationship with the next generation is as distant as their mission is from making real impact. Rather, mentorship from the 2Pacalyptic perspective suggests that the true model for mentorship comes from the mentor seeing the journey of the mentee as a marathon that’s worth running, and must continue. An incredible example of this mentorship is modeled by the relationship between the most culturally competent marathoner of my generation, Nipsey Hussle, and his older brother, Blacc Sam.
In an interview he did with DTLR in 2018, Nipsey talked about the role Blacc Sam played in his growth and development. Blacc Sam is just four years older than Nipsey Hussle; The two are brothers and peers. Blacc Sam wasn’t glittered in accolades or covered with accomplishment. Blacc Sam couldn’t explain to Nipsey Hussle the difference between a 501(c)(3) and a 401(k). But what he could do was show Nipsey the value in investing in himself because Blacc Sam first believed in Nipsey and that is truly 2Pacalyptic.
Tupac Shakur died a soldier fighting in these sin-filled streets of supremacy all in an effort to leave a legacy that would live long after his life was over. Nipsey Hussle also died a soldier fighting in these sin-filled streets of supremacy all in an effort to leave a legacy that would live long after his life was over. Both of these soldiers will be remembered as kings because of the legacy they left, but their legacies are not the same. Shakur left a legacy that will remind the supremacist and the skinfolk who ain't kinfolk of the hate they give little infants when they refuse to invest in their innovative ideas. And while this is an incredible legacy, this legacy came at great sacrifice to the life of Shakur: He was murdered without having a community that embraced him for his courage. In that same 1994 interview with Gordon, Shakur talked about his experience of lacking true community. Even with all his fame and fortune, he didn’t have a Blacc Sam or peer mentor to lead and guide him through the tough terrain that was the terroristic media. And although his mother was an ex-Panther, Shakur felt as though the Panthers used his mother and left him stranded and without guidance; the historic organization dedicated to the advancement of our people left him without help when he needed it most and that lack of support and mentorship had a long-lasting impact on his legacy.
Contrast this legacy with that of Nipsey Hussle, a soldier who died fighting a similar fight to Shakur, but whose legacy will not be defined by the hate he was given, but rather the marathon we all must continue to run as Black folks in these Divided States of America. The message within Nipsey’s legacy will reign true for generations in a much different light than Shakur’s, in large part to the influence that Blacc Sam had on Nipsey’s life. Whether it's his inner city incubator and coworking space, Vector90, or The Marathon Clothing Store and its various subsidiaries, Nipsey's legacy will be more than words and provocative interviews. The legacy of the most culturally competent marathoner of my generation will be one that continues to live on through the lives of those that his leadership touched, long after he left this Earth. The role of his older brother and peer mentor, Blacc Sam, plays a vital role in that legacy being left.
As young Black folks, we all need a Blacc Sam in our lives, and the OGs of our generation can learn a thing or two from the kind of mentorship he modeled. Too many skinfolk are engaging in mentorship from a perspective that is too problematic, and not 2Pacalyptic, and that’s why they ain’t kinfolk. Soldiers are dying every day to problems they inherited from generations past. Their legacies won’t live and their screeching souls go unheard because of petty things like pride and insecurity in the boardrooms of the Black bourgeoisie or because the soldiers find greater solace in taking on the world alone because they don’t know who they can trust in these sin-filled streets of supremacy.
As Black folks, we must remember that honoring the power in our past and promise in our future does not come with silencing the next generation's perspective or forcing them to submit to the mold that makes them who we want them to be or who we wish we could have been; honoring those who came before us comes with paving a path for those who will succeed us. Many make history but few become legends. History is the culmination of broken records and it’s when you stop creating opportunities for folks to break your records that you begin to sound like one. Legends are legends because of the legacy they leave. Their legacy lives through the lives of those they loved, and those who loved them for who they were, unconditionally. Our marathon will continue when we begin to embrace mentorship from the 2Pacalyptic perspective: A perspective that honors what came before in an effort to escort what is to come.