Turn Up! Turn Down for What? A Message to Chicago Teens

By Tina Fakhrid-Deen

The catchphrase for 2013 seems to be TUTDFW or “Turn up! Turn Down for What?” The phrase “turn up” was initially used as a party term, meaning to get really wild and party hard. However, now it means to get wild, ignorant and obnoxious on any occasion from cussing out someone to fighting in the school hallways. As if “turn up” wasn’t enough, somebody has added an addendum, “turn down for what?” Translation: Get ignorant, rowdy and out of control and don’t stop until the cops come knocking. So when I ask my students to calm down or chill out on negative behavior, they will often respond in jest, “Turn down for what?” Let me answer that question for you.

You need to turn down so that you can actually think. It’s hard to come up with intelligent solutions or responses when your adrenaline is pumping and you are on ten. It’s even worse, when your instigating friends are egging you on to “turn up.” That’s why when you are angry, it’s suggested that you breathe deeply and count slowly to ten. It’s allows your adrenaline to calm down so that your brain can re-focus. This helps you to think logically without the unnecessary high drama of emotions. In addition to turning down to think more effectively, let me tell you all the things that you can “turn down” in addition to uncontrolled, reckless emotions.

1. Turn down on the all drinking, smoking and pill popping. It’s impairing your ability to make good choices. Many of the unfortunate or negative things you get into are done when someone is under the influence. Don’t allow drugs and alcohol to control your actions. You have to be the leader of your own life because when that high comes down, you are left to deal with the ramifications of the choices you made while “turned up.”

2. Turn down the level of violence in the city. You have a choice to be mature and stop fighting and killing each other. You know it’s petty and harmful to the community. So if you know better, do better. No excuses. Put down the guns and pick up a book to learn about how we got to this place historically and how we are playing into a systematic plan to incarcerate and disempower low-income youth. Better yet, think of all of the friends and loved ones you and your friends have lost and ask yourself was it worth it? If that answer is no, you have a responsibility to do your part and decrease the level of violence that you are engaged in as well. It’s all part of the problem whether the “opps” are doing it or whether you are behind the gun.

3. Turn down the attitude and foul mouths. I’m so tired of asking young people to stop using profanity in front of elders and small children. Have some dignity and respect for yourself. We shouldn’t hear your conversation on the other side of the street or the opposite side of the train car. Use your 12 inch voice, meaning keep your business to yourself. What you say and how you say it is a reflection of you, your family and your level of intelligence. So show your best sides and turn down the worst of you. It’s a choice. And don’t catch an attitude when someone is trying to correct your negative or disruptive behavior. You can’t complain that no one cares and then lash out at the people who are showing you that they care by trying to get the best out of you.


Now let me tell you what to “turn up” on.

1. Turn up on high school and college graduation. For this to happen you need to “turn up” those good grades which leads to good report cards which leads to graduation and acceptance to good colleges and training programs which leads to good jobs and careers which leads to good salaries which leads to a better life. TDFW?

2. Turn up your level of positivity. Bad attitudes and outlooks on life are depressing and boring. Change your attitude, change your life. They go hand in hand. Use the strength you possess to overcome obstacles and have a winning attitude. Having a rough life or bad experiences does not mean that you can’t be happy and healthy in mind. Your environment does not dictate who you are, only you can dictate that; so be above the influence. You must prioritize what is important to you, reduce negative influences from your life and invest in the things that fulfill your purpose and make you happy. Turn up!

3. Turn up your level of accountability. That’s what being a young adult is. Stop talking about you’re grown, when you still walk the walk of a child. Being a young adult means adding responsibility to your daily list of duties and raising your expectation of what you can accomplish. Do you know how to clean the house (and do you)? Do you have a job (and are you even looking hard enough)? Do you make good choices and help your friends to do the same so that everybody can “come up” and thrive? Are you gaining skills and investing in hobbies and activities that make you a productive, engaged citizen? Are you reaching out to adult resources to help you get where you need to be? Get grown by being responsible and look to positive adults to support and guide you along your journey. TDFW?

4. Turn up your self-esteem. You are intelligent, driven, and talented. You have to know that you are beautiful and it has nothing to do with an outfit you put together or how long your hair is or how many boys or girls are chasing behind you. That’s about ego and lust, not the quality of the person. Stop giving away your most valuable parts because you are looking for validation or someone to be affectionate or stroke your external ego. You have to tell yourself of your own worth and make that worth internal, not external. If a person only wants you for your body, that’s external. If a person only wants you for your money, that’s external. Those are people who do not see you for whom you really are. See above the game and make your values your own. You need to harbor internal values like: I value my intelligence; I value honesty from others; I value being hard-working; I value my family and friends; I value my ability to be a good student and person; These are internal values that will still be there when the fancy clothes, cute faces and parties are long gone. Know your worth and no one can ever take that from you. Once you understand and value your worth, you won’t do things that bring your worth down because you have dignity and high self-esteem and too much to live for. Turn up!

5. Turn up the unity. You’re living in a false land of the “opps” where everyone is the perceived enemy and no one can be trusted. This is one of the unity-ripping ideas that keeps us separate. Unity is about reconciliation, forgiveness, trust, and re-building. Yes, some of you have been traumatized by all of the violence committed upon you from parents to the cops to your peers and the community, but you have to lift yourself out of that cycle of violence because it is killing off your generation, literally. We’ve created a war mentality in Chicago that has created a war zone. As long as we have the thought that everyone else is the enemy and worthless, the actions of killing the “opps” will follow, keeping us trapped in this senseless and community-destroying violence. Change the mentality, change the outcome. We are not enemies. We are a family and need to be revolutionary in this thought. We are a community. We are neighborhoods, not just the hood. We are not Chi-Raq. We are Chicago. We are one and we decide who and what this city will be. There is fighting to be done, but it is a fight against the real oppressor – poverty. We must continue to fight for equality and jobs and community resources. Stop looking for Ida B., Martin and Chavez and be Ida B., Martin and Chavez. Make something out of nothing. Become the leaders you seek. Make a way when you thought there was no way. We can only accomplish these feats when we stick together and trust each other and have each other’s backs. So turn up! It’s time to unite.

6. Turn up your resilience and dedication. Stop whining and being
soft. I’m being real. You talk tough, but walk soft. It’s not about how well you can fight or shoot; being tough is mental. It’s about defeating your inner demons and pushing through to reach new levels and challenging yourself to be the best that you can be, even when it’s hard. That’s resilience and it’s the missing piece of the puzzle for some of you. When things get tough, some of you give up or fall apart. Work for what you want. Value the process. Some of you want everything the easy or fast way and that’s not going to get you beyond where you are right now or beyond some momentary satisfaction. Those who are successful have worked for it, not whined about it or given up as soon as it got hard. Toughen up and get some grind. Know that you are destined to be successful and that no one can stop you, but you. No matter what.

Life is unfair at times. Life is unruly. Life is unpredictable. Life can be hard. So what? Turn up, not just to party and act tough. Turn up all the positivity, responsibility, skills, internal values, grind, and resilience you possess to manifest your most beautiful and successful self. Turn up! Turn down for what?


13 thoughts on “Turn Up! Turn Down for What? A Message to Chicago Teens

  1. David Ashkenaz ("Ash") says:

    Tina, this is GREAT!!!!! It should be required reading and a basis of discussion for all students upon first day of orientation!

  2. Tamiko says:

    Tina, I love this article! Very insightful! I hope our youth will find enough VALUE and WORTH in themselves to “Turn Up” the positive things you wrote about, because sadly, most of these youth become TUTDFW ADULTS!

  3. mandaJt says:

    Awesome post! I just found it by looking up what that phrase even means; I was delighted to read something written by someone who uses her brain! Haha.

  4. Johna296 says:

    Magnificent website. Lots of useful information here. Im sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your sweat! ddfdadgdkefc

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