An open letter to Amb. Andrew Young: why did you support rapper TI but not Obama?

So rapper TI (born Clifford Harris) has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for gun possession and other charges. At his sentencing Ambassador Andrew Young, you among many other prominent African American community members came out to voice your support for him. You praised TI’s visit with you to a clinic for paraplegics as one reason as to why TI is a credit to the community. You then evoked the Civil Rights Movement and offered comparisons of white-on-black then to black-on-black violence now. According to CNN, you even stated that you regarded working with Harris not so much as a chance to help him but more as “an opportunity for him to help” you. This is profound on many levels.

First Ambassador Young, what is it exactly that TI taught you that no black male student at Morris Brown, Morehouse, Emory, Georgia State, or any school that has a black male student who got it right the first time teach you? Outside of us lowly students who are irrelevant unless we get into trouble then redeem ourselves as celebrities who find Jesus at just that right moment, were there not any other celebrities like NBA Hawks player Joe Johnson who are not convicted felons with whom you could have traveled? Though you may have learned from TI, many of us, especially the youth, are learning the wrong lesson from you and other members of your generation who choose to “identify with” these celebrities at opportune times. Are there any other rappers you will reach out to or must they catch a case first?

Let’s all be clear. I am all about forgiveness and I am all about 2nd chances. However, I am focusing on the bigger picture Ambassador Young. Though TI may have spoken to (the term “mentor” requires a longer commitment than a TV season) many students about guns and violence, his lyrics since his first album in 2001 have done more to denigrate the black community as opposed to uplift it. It’s great to talk to students now, but what about the thousands of boys and girls, men and women across this country who went to jail or died trying to copy what they heard in TI’s songs? Of course TI is not solely responsible for the ills of our community, but do we have to make him a bigger celebrity because he broke the law?

The truth of the matter Ambassador Young is that TI performed his community service in order to reduce his sentence. He was still granted a reality show and released a multiplatinum selling CD entitled “Paper Trail.” All of this while working to reduce his sentence to a prison that has yet to be determined because the court wants to make sure he’s close to his family. So basically TI’s celebrity status reduced his sentence, kept him in the television spotlight, will get him a prison at Club-Fed close to his family, helped get him a multiplatinum album, and will probably be allowed to release another album while incarcerated. Where exactly is the penalty for the crime Ambassador Young? What message are we sending to our youth exactly?

What baffles me most Mr. Ambassador is how you could support TI in this nonsense but not support President Obama during his presidential campaign. It was fine to support your friend Senator Clinton because you knew her and I didn’t expect you to support Obama because he’s black. What I did not understand is why you chose to measure his blackness to the amount of black women he slept with vs. Bill Clinton–ultimately declaring Bill the winner because he jokingly slept with more. I guess when it comes to views on black women, you and TI do have something in common. Even after Obama clinched the DNC nomination, you were still nowhere to be found but we can find you in court supporting TI?

Ambassador Young, you have an extremely distinguished career of service not only to the black community but to the globe. I truly appreciate what your generation has done to make my life better. You have also obviously been committed to young people over the years but your support of TI sends the wrong message. Though TI is indeed capable of redemption, you send the world the wrong message by expressing support for a convicted felon whose body of work represents everything you have been against for you entire career, particularly that whole non-violence thing. You should be using your time and influence with the youth to uplift those who don’t have to be convicted of a crime before they dedicate themselves to service. I am interested to see your response if TI is released and goes back to his old ways. Until then, come back to us.