Dr. Ben vs. the Notorious B.I.G.
As the black community marches forward past black history month in any given year attention will undoubtedly be paid towards recognizing Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannon and The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace), who both were considered to be the greatest in their respective fields. Dr. Ben was considered to be the most prominent scholar in several academic disciplines, and The Notorious B.I.G. is considered by popular opinion to be the greatest rapper of all time. The Notorious B.I.G. died in a drive by shooting in Los Angeles, CA on March 9, 1997 at the age of 24, and Dr. Ben died on March 13, 2015 at the age of 94. These two men have made a tremendous impact on black social thought and black culture. Here the Notorious B.I.G. is recognized as a creative intellectual for his work in the music and entertainment industry. Most notably when LL Cool J declared himself the greatest of all time (GOAT), Cannibus in his single entitled, Second Round Knockout, states, "The greatest rapper of all-time dies on March 9th-" paying tribute to Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.). Dr. Ben was a Pan-Africanist and scholar of history, etymology, and religion in addition to countless other areas. In recognizing the achievements of these men and their material contribution to the African Diaspora, how will millennials measure their contribution in terms of relevancy to black social thought in the areas of education, religion, entertainment and politics?
Each year since 1998 radio stations have dedicated March 9th to the life and career of the Notorious B.I.G. By playing music throughout the day and opening up telephone lines to callers to share their thoughts and opinions. Are radio stations are paying the community due diligence, through sharing the Notorious B.I.G’s creative work with them, or are they entertaining people with violence and romanticism with death. It has only been one year since the passing of Dr. Ben and media outlets have also followed suit and provided platforms to highlight the work of Dr. Ben. Millennials seek information and entertainment through a variety of mass-media avenues; internet, phone internet and applications, and television, so how likely are millennials to encounter information relating to one of these cultural giants more than the other? Around the world both men have been influential in cultural movements –Notorious B.I.G. doing so posthumously- affecting culture, religion, art and social thought. If a student were to research either of the men through academic articles, they should be able to find extensive scholarly information on both Dr. Ben and the Notorious B.I.G. Questioning who is more important to Black culture here is not the objective, but to discuss why it may be imminent that one will receive more media exposure than the other, and to create opportunities for learners to understand the ideal of cultural contribution-as it relates to understanding how various intellectuals contribute to a culture to create the body of its complex whole. No longer shall pictures of Black entertainers adorn the walls of classrooms, for their path to success was not conventional i.e. using post-secondary training to master a craft or discipline, and the entertainment industry is not an equal opportunity venture. Drake signifies this in the lyric, “What up LB, what up Slum Vill..yall know yall the reason I have fun still, fans thinking we all signed for one mill, they don’t know that equal opportunity rap is unreal!”
When presenting Black history in a scholastic setting curriculums purposely omit African Americans that made substantial positive social change and other significant contributions to humanity in America other than those that have “assimilation status”. This practice that education tsars support is detrimental to Black students. With the assistance of Greg Carr, Philadelphia now has a required high school African American history course. This alone will not liberate Black students but provides leeway for it. I support the position that African American history should be taught across the curriculum instead of being confined to one class. In examining the necessity for Black youth to be familiar with Dr. Ben and The Notorious B.I.G., educators have to make conscious decisions on how to present intellectuals and creative intellectuals to Black students. Many Africans in America have contributed significantly to all areas of human activity, so when the curriculum begins to acknowledge, respect, and honor African culture in America and the student’s being trained-it is likely-Black students will begin to leap developmental hurdles.