One morning while having her morning tea and sitting in the windowsill of her top floor Harlem brownstone apartment, Saudia Davis found her attention drawn to viewing two young boys playing in the project parking lot across the street. Most striking in this scene were their white t-shirts tucked into their underwear while their jeans sagged down below their exposed bottoms. Picture this: two young boys, no more than 8 years old, playing stickball and completely exposed. Saudia embarked on researching the appeal of this youth “fashion” trend.
This fashion trend, called “sagging”, derives from jailhouse attire. In prison, prisoners are often not allowed to wear belts. So as a result, their uniform pants “sag.” We currently live in a culture that is not paying attention to our underprivileged youth and as a result most adults do not understand why children choose to wear their clothes this way. Worse yet, the children often do not know the origin of their “fashion” choices.
The term “Smarty Pants” has been used to define a smart or more advanced child who excels, often at the risk in the African American community of being labeled “acting white” and having a negative connotation attached to being smart. We know that when allowed freedom, education and self-expression that smart children become leaders.
We aim to change the message of a “SMARTY PANTS.” We hope to send the message that we should all CELEBRATE BRILLIANCE and NURTURE TALENT rather than “tease” or diminish a smart person. It is ok and even wonderful to be smart.
It is time we take action and reach down and pull these young individuals up. Explain to them the significance of the person that they are and how the image that they may be projecting of “Jailhouse style” or “Saggers” is in complete contradiction to how they desire to be respected. Teach children that they can be leaders and someone to be proud of, “You don’t have to sag to brag.”
Smarty Pants Are Leaders! (SPAL)