Twenty-seven. Twenty-seven columns. Twenty-seven attempts to “change the world.“ Twenty-seven opportunities to represent the unrepresented. Twenty-seven chances to piss someone off. Twenty-seven chances to educate myself a little bit more. Twenty-seven.
But this is number 28. How does one finish a year‘s worth of rage, appall, hope, criticism and optimism in one column? I don‘t know how one might finish, but I know of a good way to start.
“You’ve got the Vietnam War, right? And just because the reporters showed us pictures at home of the Vietnam War, that’s what made the Vietnam War end when it did, or the shit probably would have lasted longer,“ he said. “If no one knew exactly what was going on, we just thought they were just dying valiantly, in some beautiful way. But because we saw the horror, that’s what made us stop the Vietnam War.
“I thought, ‘That’s what I’ll do as an artist, as a rapper,‘” he continued. “‘I’m gonna show the graphic details of what I see in my community and hopefully they’ll stop it, quit.‘“
In this one well-articulated anecdote, Tupac captures the absolute essence of this column.
While Shakur had the talent of rhyming his words, using poetry and strong emotions to convey the inequality in his community, I used my affinity for writing, curiosity of the world and innate propensity for fighting back to surface unregarded inequality in as many communities as I could. Which would be 27.
But what comes with representing these communities is the backlash and controversy that goes hand-in-hand with upsetting the status-quo.
While Pac was labeled a gangster that is corrupting American youth, I was stigmatized as a radical who turns college students into a “bunch of loud mouthed, militant and angry kids.“
While Pac was blamed for encouraging gun violence, I was accused of supporting terrorism.
But one thing that he did, that I hope I have done to some extent, is use some talent and an outlet in a way that can accomplish two things: First, express myself. It‘s obvious that if you could call Tupac one thing, it was emotional. Tupac used music and writing as a release of different emotions. And because he was so socially aware of the inequalities that exist in our country, every song he wrote, like every column I wrote, was incredibly cathartic.
And second, have my columns reach a person or community of people who might not have representation otherwise. And similar to what Pac said about exposing graphic details, I hope if students can read and notice the similarities between different oppressed groups, they can relate to one another and “stop it, quit.“
Contrary to what most people would assume about him, Tupac grew up with a privilege other children didn‘t have where he was growing up. Although he lived in poverty, he auditioned and attended the Baltimore School of Performing Arts. He pointed out in an interview that he “went to [a school that] was mostly for white kids and rich minorities. … I would have been totally different had I not been exposed to this.“ He even acknowledges that a lot of his songs talk about things he has heard of and seen, not directly experienced. Still, he uses his art, his innate talent and his privilege to shed light on issues that no one else cared about.
This is what makes Tupac an amazing character and a symbol to me as an activist and critically thinking person. And an example that I believe more people should follow. By acknowledging our privileges and using our talents to help one another, maybe, just maybe, the world would be a little bit better.
To end with a quote, and one that I will end my faithful 28 columns with: “My ear is to the streets. I represent 20 years on this planet Earth and what I’ve seen. This [was] my report.“
SARA KOHGADAI is grateful for having the opportunity to voice herself and attempt to represent the underdog. She also can‘t believe she just compared herself to Tupac. She can be reached at email@example.com.