Since its publication nearly three years ago, Jay-Z’s powerful memoir, Decoded, has continued to engage readers, unfolding the story of legendary rap artist Jay-Z through a blend of lyrics and prose.
Upon reading Decoded, the Mighty Teen Scholars program of Philadelphia, PA discussed the book, specifically talking about the new, diversified age of patriotism that Decoded suggests is replacing an older, more rigid patriotism of the past.
Mighty Teen Scholars helps teenagers to think and write with clarity so that they can achieve success in school, work, and life. Teenagers congregate every Wednesday night to interview professionals, plan for college, discuss and write about current events, and, in this case, talk about books.
We’re delighted to share the opinions of these introspective, enthusiastic teenage readers, as shaped by their reading of Decoded.
“The old patriotism prototype is that of a white heterosexual family of two parents, two kids and a dog. Definitely a heterosexual couple. New Patriotism makes room for interracial families and couples, same sex marriages and a black president in office. I consider myself part of the New Patriotism. I support gay marriage and candidates with fresh ideas. At some point, people have to realize that accepting something new is better for you than struggling with it.”
“Many Americans are afraid of change because they don’t know what the outcome will be. Being afraid of change is holding America back. If we continue you to be this way, we can’t move forward as a country. There are certain customs and traditions we should hold onto, but some things need to be let go. America is supposed to be a melting pot, but it seems we are still separate, just living in the same country. Until we can actually be united under one flag, we will be at a standstill—divided.”
“The ‘New Patriotism’ gives people more of a chance. Starting with the 2008 presidential election, people began to break through the old political norms. They began to want presidents who relate to them on a personal level, because if a presidential candidate can relate on a personal level, he or she will be able to understand personal struggles and understand what the people need. People today see Barack Obama as symbolic of the New Patriotism because he appeals to the young, old, African American, middle class and lower class communities—and because his interests are with the people: basketball, music and family history.”
“Technology plays a key role in the New Patriotism, from playing games on your smart phone to making musical beats on your laptop. Technology demonstrates change. If you understand it, you’re going somewhere.”
“My generation expresses the New Patriotism through song. We have come a long way since ‘God Bless America,’ and ‘America the Beautiful.’ Patriotic music began to change with Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ and has kept changing through the Beastie Boys’ “Paul Revere” and Young Jeezy’s ‘My President is Black.’ Songs like these bring out the New patriotism in me.”
“To witness the growing interest in ‘Decoded’ as we went deeper into the book was transformative. Here was a group of young people learning to think intellectually about the cultural impact of a musical genre. The dialogue that ensued after we read the book helped each student open up about his or her own life and worldview. The conversation was all about achieving the American Dream, however one defines that. By the end, it was clear that every student held the book and its author in great esteem.”
–James Owk, Mighty Writers’ Teen Facilitator
Click here for more information about Decoded by Jay-Z.