The Fire Within

When I first heard the phrase "Generation X," I thought it was in reference to a new generation of black youth who were moved to thought, dialogue, and action by Spike Lee's 1992 cinematic production of the slain human-civil rights leader Malcolm X. I was appalled to learn that the phrase is actually a media-generated, -fabricated, and -propagated label for the post-baby boom generation (ages 18-30).

One of the many problems I have with the Generation X phenomenon is the casual use of the word "slacker." Although this leisure may be afforded by some, as a 25-year-old, college-educated black male who professes Christ I cannot afford to "slack" away from the cancerous problems that are eating away at the black community.

There has been too much slacking already, or we would not have a black child born into poverty every 95 seconds; a black youth arrested for a crime every 11 minutes; a black youth arrested for a drug offense every 18 minutes; and more black males ages 17-23 in prison than in colleges and universities.

Young black America cannot afford to be slackers, because slacking will result in our genocide!

I sometimes feel like the "weeping prophet" Jeremiah—as he looked around, all he saw was a generation killing and destroying itself. But after our weeping, we, like Jeremiah, must also "root out and pull down, destroy and throw down, build and plant" (Jeremiah 1:10). We must "build" walls of community and peace, and plant the seeds of the gospel of love. We must allow the fire within—Jeremiah's fire, which is the Spirit of the Lord—to move us to action.

When this article appeared, Darrell Armstrong, 25, was a minister at the Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Menlo Park, California, and a program counselor for the Upward Bound Program at Stanford University. He was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles.

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Sojourners Magazine November 1994
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