It seems the administration at Crawford Long Middle School has underestimated the fear in the hearts of the greater Atlanta community about who should be able to speak to their children. Last week, Gucci Mane let the world know that he’d been invited to speak at Career Day for the middle school and in turn sparked a huge negative outcry. Complaints consist mostly of selections from the tired canon of complaints about rappers who rap about the streets, so I won’t bother to individually address them because they’re not offered with as much thought and discretion as it would take to refute them, but I would like to draw some attention to some reasons for why Gucci Mane is not only an acceptable, but in fact an excellent choice as a speaker at any middle school, especially in Atlanta, and especially on career day.
The purpose of career day is for students to see what possible paths lie ahead of them and possibly gain some inspiration as to new directions their own life can take. Students will not necessarily (in fact they will almost definitely) not take the exact course taken by the speakers, but will find the bits that interest and resonate with them and begin to reimagine their own future with these new elements. A student who gets moved by a presentation made by a veterinarian may not become a veterinarian, but they may find some small anecdote from that person’s individual story that will inspire them on their own journey. Maybe that veterinarian grew up without a father, or got a scholarship to a prestigious university even though they came from a poverty stricken area, or suffered some physical or mental disability that made most people think that they could never achieve such an admirable career position. The kid in the class might have no interest in taking care of animals, but they might have some of those same difficulties described by the speaker and become inspired to keep pushing on their own path despite their unique personal handicaps. Career day isn’t about learning how to become a firefighter or a postal worker or a banker or a politician, it’s about seeing that there are possibilities that they never considered for themselves and to give them hope for achievement in their own future. The firefighter might beat his wife, the postal worker might cheat on her husband, the banker might embezzle money, and the politician might take illegal contributions for his/her campaign, but those things are not the things that career day is about, especially for the kids. That’s perhaps the biggest oversight by the critics of inviting Gucci to speak to these students: they underestimate the intelligence and vision of the kids they’re trying to protect.
By the time these kids hear Gucci’s speech, they should already know that selling drugs, acting violently, and throwing women out of moving vehicles aren’t cool things to do. If they don’t, then it’s not Gucci Mane’s fault, it’s the fault of the rest of the community that raised them. A kid that gets inspired from Gucci’s presentation (what I wouldn’t pay for a video, even a manuscript…) is most likely going to take away lessons like “even though I’ve made mistakes in my life, I can still be a successful business person,” “it’s really possible to make a career out of artistic self-expression and I don’t have to deny my creative gifts to make a living for myself and my family,” or “I don’t have to bend to the will of the larger system that I’m working in, I can maintain my integrity and work for what I believe in and still have great success.” Gucci Mane’s business sense has always been one of his greatest assets, he’s managed to be one of the most notable artists of the past decade without capitulating to the major label system and giving up what he truly believes in. He’s reached out to friends and family members to offer and receive help of all kinds, he judges his own creative work by his own standards, and he’s shrewd about who he does business with. These are all skills that an entrepreneur in any field must have, and the fact that Gucci Mane raps about and takes part in some unsavory activity doesn’t mean that he has nothing to offer the youth of America. How beautiful would it be if a 7th grader in Atlanta that’s just beginning to get mixed up in the kinds of activities that Gucci Mane references in his music sees a shining example of someone who left that life behind to pursue more legitimate business ventures and has succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations? Wouldn’t Gucci reach that kid much more effectively than a lawyer or a police officer or any other approved career-holder according to the hand-wringing parents of the Atlanta Public School system? The kid that’s going to grow up to be a doctor isn’t going to hear Gucci Mane’s presentation and be like “damn I need to start cooking crack if I’m going to make it in this world…”, they’re going to listen to the role models that resonate for them and then maybe get Gucci’s autograph afterward. Give the kids some credit.
Gucci Mane – Street Smart