Winning Essay by Donte Finney, Fayetteville State University
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Isaac Newton once wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.” As a black young male growing up in America, I have had the opportunity to see the possibility of greatness from the shoulders of many African Americans. And though I must give a respectful and grateful nod to Harriett Tubman, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Jimi Hendrix, Barack Obama, and many more, the African American who I look up to the most is Tosin Abasi, a musician/lead guitarist for a band named Animals as Leaders. Though far less known then some of the other torch carriers in the black community, Abasi revolutionized the progressive rock/metal/djent genre through his unique playstyle and a guitar technique known as the “thump.” He molded historical influence and current trends into a form of music that embodies his own individual style. His musical genius and commitment to individuality has paved the way for my own journey to musical greatness. It is because of him that I can see just how far I can go.

Tosin Abasi has many accolades, but I admire him because of his individuality, prowess, and ambition. These qualities influence his innovation and allow him to find new ways to convey a message to his audience and evoke feeling through his music. Because of how intriguing and intricate his songs are, listening to his music always motivates me and makes me want to go places far beyond the walls of my current circumstances. When I plug in my guitar, the mirror and window that Abasi creates for me becomes a brilliant reality. I want people to be inspired and lifted by my music in the same way Abasi has influenced me. Tosin Abasi has given me the foresight to see that thinking freely (and rationally), striving for perfection, and taking risks can lead to true greatness. Like Abasi and many of other African Americans who played a role in changing the narrative, I want to be role model for those who feel confined by their environment. I grew up with many people who lacked positive influences in their tangible, day-to-day life and saw how the void of aspiration or the inability to see beyond the now can be oppressive. My escape from my own personal tragedy was music. I can only hope to be someone else’s escape and giant as Abasi has been for me. Tosin Abasi is an African American who defied stereotypes and dared to live an authentic life. Like Jimi Hendrix, he excels in a musical field not yet flooded by African Americans. His talent, his persistence, and his musical presence have lifted me high and shaped my vision. It is because of his music that I dream in possibilities. It is because of giants like him that I dream.

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