Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's YOUNG, It's BLACK, It's ATLANTA!! : Poverty of Ambition in the BIG city

In my fervent attempt to build on the past 5 months/21.5 years of my life and launch myself into a promising future, I, quite the square peg, made a half-hearted attempt at fitting myself into the round hole of "young, black, Atlanta." I knew it was risky, but I gave it a shot. I went to an event the other night at some Wine Loft that was intended to be a prime networking event. Networking events in Atlanta are mainly "meat/meet markets" full of women squeezed into little skirts, balanced on stilettos, staring down other women who might be in competition with them to attract men who might be interested in dating them, I mean, giving them jobs.

Sitting on a couch for about 30 min, people watching in a sea of young professionals, my mind was drawn away to this idea of "poverty of ambition." Our illustrious President-Elect just might have said it best.

"Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." --President Obama

My fear: That a room full of young, intelligent, black professionals, may be, despite the occasional effort, living out this "poverty of ambition."

No one, almost none, even moves to Atlanta to serve the ailing communities that populate the city. They instead, flock, because they are young, single, fly and childless.....or at least they seek to be. But what else are they chasing? What virtue are they seeking? My sister, the consumate young, black, Atlanta professional, explains these events to be a means to an end, a stepping stone so to speak, but I think more than a few folks step and get stuck waiting for the next mixer.

The larger problem in all of this: being a community organizer makes you look at everything like a social experiment. It causes you to despise the simple, surface conversation and the array of self-serving items that top people's lifelong To Do lists. I want to make it clear though that I am not turning my nose up a girl who owns a new Coach bag and volunteers at a shelter once/month. We can't all be Mother Teresa. I'm simply saying that my wagon, as Obama says, has been hitched to something much bigger than the next sale at the mall, or the newest bag by Coach (don't get my wrong though, I do love a good sale). There's gotta be a place for community organizers in this lipstick jungle!! Here I was, all dressed up in my tight little skirt with my afro packed down to satisfying heights and I have never, ever, felt more displaced, nor have I even felt myself to have so little in common with people who LOOK JUST LIKE ME. Is it my job, as a community organizer, to help people hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves, whatever that may be. Is that how we sustain a movement? It that our place as community organizers who have been released out of the captivity of election season into the wild?

So, to make a long story short, or long, I didn't quite fit in. Perhaps, it's because I am a community organizer and not a social climber. Perhaps it is because I'd rather be on the phone in my stretch pants and Converse doing volunteer recruitment calls than in an uncomfortable outfit, showing cleavage to attract my next short term boyfriend or long term disappointment. Perhaps it is because this is all a little bit country, and I am just a little too rock and roll. :-)


Zach said...

Yeeesh. Lipstick jungle? They need to hitch their wagons to something bigger. Keep being an example.

Yaa Yaa said...

Ok, so your blog is well written and all. But I think that you may be minimizing the women in the short skirts. Perhaps some do have a "poverty ambition" but others may not. Others may just like to look stunning and attractive when they go out in the city of Atlanta. But you do have a really good point. I'm glad you didn't feel intimidated by the women with Coach bags. Some women do and feel that they need to compete. Nicely written, Jonae!