THE BLOG

Black Millennials: We Need Your Presence, Not Just Your Success

02/24/2015 12:55 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015
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I feel like everyday I am clicking through articles that offer some really compelling analytics about where Millennials, including black and brown ones, are moving after college and graduate school. Cities like New York, Washington D.C., and San Francisco seem to always be rivaling one another to be the mecca of the young and educated. While I am less concerned about where White Millennials are moving, I am in fact consumed by where Black Millennials are moving after their educations. Today, we have more educated Black folks then ever, so it's important for us to pay attention to where our most gifted and talented are laying roots. Understandably living in these newly gentrified, coffee shop-lined, yoga-in the-park cities like Brooklyn and Boston represent a physical ascendance to the urban middle-class for many young Blacks. My concern however, is that as young, successful, and educated Black Millennials we never forget how impactful our presence is. Many of us can identify as being labeled as the ones "who made it out." While those distant stories of success may prove as a source of inspiration for some young people sitting in classrooms across urban America, your actual presence in these communities dwarfs that inspiration as living proof.

I am not asking Black Millennials across the country to flock to the most violent, poor, and disadvantaged neighborhoods, but I am asking you to be conscious of where you decide to sign a lease, lay roots, and ultimately where you decide to have your presence. These gentrified zones that we tend to migrate to as an "escape" don't need us as much as they need the incomes associated with us. However, there are cities and neighborhoods across this country that are desperate for the presence of strong and successful men and women of color. Don't underestimate the impact you can have on a Black boy or girl watching you go to work everyday, carrying yourself with dignity, and unconsciously exuding a sense of Black Excellence. These cities like Detroit, and neighborhoods like Roxbury in Boston may not be the most glamorous, but they will be the most appreciative.

It is important to note that this article is not a criticism of Black Millennials. I simply hope this acts as a reminder that in a country where nearly 26 percent of African Americans live in poverty, where Blacks still lag behind the rest of the nation in high school graduation rates, and where homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between 15 and 34, your presence in the black community is desperately needed. And I am not talking about the black community on Twitter, or between Don Lemon and Michael Erick-Dyson, I am talking about the black community that feels the brunt of the social-ills we study in school, the black community that feels the worst iterations of the police brutality that we have been marching against, and the black community we often forget about that live in the "hoods, and" "ghettos;" The places higher degrees tend to help us forget.

Choosing to lease an apartment in my hometown of Newark, NJ, a city labeled as poor and crime-plagued after college as opposed to making a very easy migration to New York City or Hoboken, has been one of the best decisions I have made. I love seeing the faces of young ones when I walk to work in a suit, or even better, their faces when they see I live in the same neighborhood as them. I have beautiful seniors baking me great cookies, and parents talking me up about how to make their neighborhoods stronger. Indeed while living in Newark, I have sacrificed some of the luxuries that I would've had elsewhere but the lessons I have learned while living here has been invaluable.

I know for many Black Millennials moving to these "alternative" neighborhoods and cities might not be feasible for a variety of reasons, but that shouldn't stop us from always being aware of where we share our presence. Whether that is signing a lease in a black neighborhood or volunteering once a month in one, we have to get serious and active as Black Millennials about making sure we are visible to our people and not just in accolades and marches, but in flesh.