Today the internet had quite a bit to say about Gucci Mane being invited to speak at Career Day. In case you didn’t hear about it yet, Gucci was invited to speak at Crawford Long Middle School in Southeast Atlanta, down off Cleveland Ave.
Now, when I first saw headlines saying that Gucci Mane was speaking at a Career Day, like anybody else that would have seen it, my mind went “WTF?” But then, when I found out where the school was at, I wasn’t too too surprised. Unfortunately, “Cleveland Ave.” and “education” aren’t used in the same sentence that often…well, let me correct myself. “Academics” is the word that isn’t very synonymous…there are plenty of things to get “educated” about on Cleveland Ave.
But yeah, by most standards, Long Middle is considered a “hood school.” “Hood school” is a relative term though. I went to Atherton Elementary off Glenwood Road and Miller Grove Middle School growing up. Anybody that grew up in Atlanta or Decatur knows that Glenwood Road already has some stigmas attached to it, and the time I was going to Miller Grove, folks was calling it “Killer Grove.” Granted, I wasn’t Billy Badass, nor was I getting my lunch money taken…but, I never felt scared going to school. Especially since I knew there were WAAAAAAAAY more dangerous or “bad” schools than where I was going.
Yes, I was aware of what was going on, but I never felt like I was in danger everyday. So like I said, the term “hood school” is relative. If I was from Flowery Branch, Georgia or something, then yeah, I might have been scared. But, I grew up around these schools and the kids that went to them…so I was never bothered, so to speak.
That said, as crazy as it sounds, Gucci Mane might belong speaking at Career Day….at Crawford Long Middle School. We can’t sit up here and act like these kids don’t know who Gucci Mane is or that a few of them weren’t looking up to him already, before he came to speak. Nor can we act like the teachers who work there probably don’t pull out the parking lot after school bumping the hell out of Gucci on Fridays, or shake their ass to it on the weekends. It’s a sign of the times. A lot of the people I grew up with, went to school with, got drunk with, got high with, ran from police with, got in trouble with, chased girls with…are teachers now. And damn good ones.
The people that taught my generation are old and retired now. We have a generation of teachers that probably have backgrounds more similar to Gucci’s than the old lady who taught us Social Studies. Which, could be a good thing as they may be able to relate to student better…that is if they really care about the kids and aren’t just teaching to get a check. Hell, some of the kids at that school are probably related to him or Young Scooter since Cleveland Ave. is his stomping grounds. Wouldn’t be surprised if the teacher that set all all of this up is a reformed 1017 member or something.
According to officials at Long Middle, they screened all of the questions that were asked so that Gucci “wouldn’t be able to spin things in a negative way.” Granted, Gucci hasn’t always demonstrated that he has common sense, but I don’t think he would go up there and be like “fuck school, sell drugs” or anything like that. Especially since he reportedly graduated from McNair (another “Hood School”) with a 3.5 GPA and got a scholarship offer for computer programming at Georgia Perimeter (don’t laugh, did you get offered a scholarship, of any kind?).
I don’t have the story laying around anywhere, but I remember talking to him back when his first album Trap House first came out and he was telling me how he used to win poetry contests and excelled in English class. If anything, he probably would’ve told the kids that school isn’t for everybody or that school right now, probably isn’t going to prepare you for what’s out there. Not too different from what Bill Gates says when he asked what he thinks about education…albeit maybe not as eloquent.
As far as people getting upset that a “rapper” was invited to speak at career day? Let me say this, rappers get invited to speak at career day, all of the time. Hell, pretty much every time I get invited to speak at a career day, which is at least twice a year, I’m either going after or going before a rapper or musician of some sort. Sometimes its a star, sometimes its some dude with a mixtape at the gas station. For the most part, they tell the kids to stay in school and save their money when and if they get a job when they grow up. They also tell them to try and start their own business. Most times, they shun even being referred to as a “rapper” on Career Day. They prefer terms and phrases like entrepreneur, business owner or CEO. Which is true most of the time.
Actually, every time I speak at a career day, half of the questions from the kids are “does [insert rapper name] really have that much money?” or “is [insert rapper name] as real as he say he is?” or “does [insert rapper name] really do what he raps about?” Of course I answer those questions as honestly as I can. I don’t get mad when they ask them either. I’m actually happy that they do. It shows me that even though the general consensus/myth is that “Hip Hop is having a (negative) impact on our youth,” not all of the kids are taking everything at face value. They have questions, we just have to make sure we are giving them the right answers when they ask them.
One year, I spoke at a Career Day, I forget what school it was, but Yung Joc was the “headliner” much like the same way Gucci was. It also happened to be the week that the cover story I wrote on him for RIDES Magazine came out. Of course, all of the kids were excited to see and hear from Joc, he was really popping at the time. Joc has good sense and told the kids some great things. But one thing he did really surprised me that I’ll never forget.
While he was speaking in the auditorium, he called me out and brought me to the stage like I was some kind of star. Some of the kids recognized me as the kind of “cool dude” who spoke in their class earlier. The others were just like “who this dude in the sweater and tie?” Joc pulled out the magazine and told the kids that I wrote that story with him on the cover. Then told the kids not to be like him, but to be more like me. He also lied and told them that I was a millionaire “but he don’t want nobody to know.” But, he told the kids something to the effect of “hey, this dude is cool too, and if you want to be cool like him, you have to go to school, do good in English class, read…etc etc etc.”
After that, he signed a few autographs and left. I was still there, and some of the kids ran up on me like I was “cool” and asked for my autograph and picture. It was a pretty special moment. Not for my ego’s sake, but for seeing that kids are still very impressionable and are just looking for any kind of positive example to follow.
I wasn’t at Crawford Long Middle School. I don’t know what Gucci told the kids either. The school officials just said they have alot of aspiring rappers at the school and that Gucci “was very good with the kids.”
As much as we want to joke or lament Gucci Mane getting invited to speak at a career day, the reality is…for some of these kids, seeing and hearing from Gucci Mane is probably going to have a longer lasting impact than bringing in a suit. Yeah, kids like to look up to rich people, but even more than that, they like to look up to people who “made it out.”
Kids are impressionable, but I don’t think a lot of kids are going to leave saying “hey I want to be like Gucci Mane now.” Yeah, the kids know that he is rich and famous…but they also know that he is in and out of jail, has admitted to being addicted to drugs (albeit to a judge to avoid going back to jail, again) and has an ice cream cone with two scoops tattooed on his face. The 11-year-old kid who wants to be a rapper (today) may have been impressed and decided to keep at it, or they might have seen Gucci and been like “ehhhh, I’ma see what this computer progammer shit talking about.” The 12-year-old kid who wants to be a doctor (today) may have been fully convinced that he still wants to be a doctor so that he can help rappers lose beer bellies and remove face tattoos when they get older…you never know.
For all of the “role model” talk…yeah, Gucci Mane pushes women out of cars and wreaks all kinds of havoc on planet Earth at times. But let me tell ya…I worked at my uncle’s liquor store growing up (ya’ll remember Panola Package on Covington Highway?) and I seen half the staff from my school coming in there getting to it. And shied, if you heard half the stuff that teachers talk about behind the doors of the “Teacher’s Lounge” at your kids school…you wouldn’t want them around your kid either. So, let’s choose what stones we are going to throw here.
Plus, I’m not as so much concerned about Gucci Mane being at Career Day as I am about whether or not the kids paid anybody else any attention. Crawford Long Middle School officials say that this was a part of “Career Week” and that a lot of people came by. They said after the speakers leave, the kids have to come back to school dressed up as whoever they think left the biggest impact and wanted to be like later in life.
Kudos to Gucci for coming and talking to the kids. There’s a lot of more well off rappers and “conscious” rappers that either don’t talk to kids or only show up when the school cuts a check. Hell, there are teachers that don’t even like coming to school, and they get paid to be there….but I’m praying that the kids at Long Middle don’t come back tomorrow with gold teeth and ice cream tattooed on their faces.