recent times, a trend seems to have emerged. I call it the second
wave of the not-always-so-Talented Tenth. This is constituted by
an increasingly visible and vocal contingent; they are the crop
of African-Americans, generally ages 23-40, who have christened
isn’t necessarily professional in the conventional sense of careers
– those who are doctors, attorneys, academicians, or even specialists
in technology, communications or business. Instead, these professionals
are anyone who has a job in an office, who may have a cubicle or
their own office, whose employment in not manual or service-oriented
in the ostensibly basest sense. These professionals are not washing
dishes, taking fast food orders, laying bricks or trimming hedges.
They work in offices, dress like they’re going to a megachurch service
and take pride in their status, even if they spend their days answering
calls, making copies or booking travel arrangements for their superiors.
these are the professionals. And seemingly everyone now wants
to be part of this elevated caste.
so imagine my surprise when I recently attended an event targeted
to such professionals, to those with a bit of extra change left
over after paying our bills – our inflated mortgages, monthly notes
for cars with a certain cache and organic groceries from places
like Whole Foods. The organizers, who have built their empire on
such higher class black support, just knew that this faithful following
would come out and pay preciously for a concert featuring underrated
and railroaded artist Bilal.
were set to open at 8, but no one gained entry until at least 30
minutes later. Folks were frigidly keeping their cool in temperatures
that had descended into the 50s in late spring. The line weaved
through a parking lot as ticket-holders looked nonplussed, engaged
in conversation with their fellow professionals. Once the doors
opened, the line continued to bottleneck, as organizers manually
checked IDs and printed-out tickets against a paper roster, having
ticket purchasers sign their name next to their previously processed
much for being professional and progressive with technology.
seated, most attendees waited an hour and a half until the opening
act came on and performed an entirely too long set that tested the
patience of the listless audience. The “poet” talked about the dearth
of professional black women who can cook homemade meals complete
with fried chicken, greens and hot water cornbread, among other
topics, which contained our struggles in pop culture analogies,
with Beyonce as a memorable, uninspired allusion. He also predictably
reminded us of our past glory as African royalty. People started
shuffling around, taking bathroom breaks and, in some cases, left
reason for the extended performance was made clear upon conclusion,
when organizers announced with feigned disappointment and astonishment
that the evening’s host (and presumably, in the minds of the concert-goers,
co-headliner) songstress Jaguar Wright had accepted another engagement
and would not be in the house. People who had paid up to $150-plus
for tickets were getting two-thirds of what they expected, with
a bunch of headaches and nonsense in the process, and no concessions
or apologies, to boot.
we were told it would be 15 minutes, at least 35 minutes passed
between the opening act and Bilal’s set without clear or reasonable
explanation. As they waited, the professionals went to the bar for
drinks, checked their Blackberries and rubbed their eyes, likely
thinking about waking up the next morning for work.
put on a respectable hour-long performance, one much better than
that put on by the orchestrators of this event.
may feel good to be a professional or to be called one. It may enhance
our egos to be thought of as exceptions, as the upper crust who
have weathered and risen above the undercurrent of mediocrity and
oftentimes, we act like we’re exclusive when, really, we’re acting
just like everyone else.
an event is a reminder that true professionals don’t pay for pretense.
When dollars are at stake, they expect the real thing and will not
compliantly scamper away into their burrows of complacency without
Columnist K. Danielle Edwards is a Nashville-based communications expert, writer
and poet whose works have been featured in The Root, The Washington
Post, National Public Radio, Black Magnolias Literary Journal, Parenting
Express, Mamazine, Mamaphonic, The Black World Today, Africana.com
and new work will be featured in the inaugural issue of Mythium.
She is the founder and editor of the forthcoming online literary
and has taught creative writing at the Tennessee Prison for Women.
to contact Ms. Edwards.