I spent the afternoon working on a poster, sprawled across the dining room table and blasting one of B2K’s two infamous albums. I had tickets to go see the boy group — the latest teen sensation on Bow Wow’s infamous Scream Tour (you know, that one he recently said gave way for Chris Brown and others who have now surpassed him in fame) — and I was in full concert preparation mode.
The tour was just three days after my 15th birthday, and I was going with my good friend from summer camp. As an adult, I can vividly recall the pure joy and effort that went into making a poster covered with cut out images of B2K member J-Boog from the latest Right On! or Word Up! Magazine.
When I arrived at the Verizon Center, an arena in Washington, D.C., I had to discard my beautiful poster. I’m sure it had something to do with safety or blocking views, but I had 12th row seats and I was crushed. Partly because I couldn’t figure out how J-Boog was supposed to pick me out of the crowd to come onstage without first recognizing the hard work I put into that poster. What if I was instead selected by Raz-B? Had I known posters weren’t allowed, I would have kept those pictures right in my coveted teen magazines instead of wasting those bad boys on a poster that I had to toss.
Poster-loss aside, I went on to have an incredible time with my friend Leko. I still remember locking eyes directly with Omarion – my seats were pretty incredible. It was the perfect 15th birthday. A completely innocent, safe and fun time.
As a kid, I attended many concerts like this with my parents, including TLC’s Fanmail and N’SYNC’s No Strings Attached tours. My mom stopped accompanying me to the shows when I was in high school. I had a cell phone at 13 and knew the rules of sticking with friends. She dropped us off and picked us up, and I had some street sense.
Living in a live music city with neighborhood festivals and a genre of music – go-go – which is complicated by the violence associated with it, being close to gunshots wasn’t something unexpected for certain shows. I was generally instructed to avoid those settings, but could occasionally be persuasive enough to convince my mom to break her rules.
That’s why the tragedy at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, like all acts of terror, is incomprehensible. You wonder why our kids aren’t safe in movie theatres, and malls, and kindergarten classrooms. There are some elements of fear that stick with me; post-Aurora shooting, for example, I refused to go to films on opening nights. There are many outings that I cannot and will not compromise, and concerts or any sort of necessary day-to-day interaction that requires me to mix with a crowd of people are places where I will not be deterred.
I know that parenting is one thousand percent scary and challenging, and the even scarier years of freedom and self-exploration lie further down the road. But if we raise our children to be observant, resilient and quick thinking, they will be equipped like the teens in Manchester who used social media, smartly, to quickly mobilize. A local Holiday Inn held 50 teens in shelter. Facebook created a safety check as it often does in times of crisis. Teens helped inform reporters and the world about what was happening on the ground. Like my peers who survived our teen years with a different, perhaps lower scale set of threats, tomorrow’s teens will unfortunately be equipped with an awareness that terrorists threats are a reality. They will be prepared to use the tools of their time to ensure survival in moments of unthinkable terror.
This isn’t intended to be a grim premise, but rather a realistic one that helps us live in survival and not fear. And it is my hope that my daughter and the teenagers of the future will still inhibit the same excitement and freedom that millennials did when attending concerts and enjoying adolescence.
Even when the threat of terror aims to destroy our joy and our humanity. We must continue to push forward.
Terrorism will never win.