What should Black America do to stop the violence in Chicago and other inner cities?

What should Black America do to stop the violence in Chicago and other inner cities?

So now what?

This week we identified a problem– violence in our streets (primarily in black neighborhoods)– and questioned why we, the black community, aren’t looking more in the mirror. It’s our children carrying the guns; how do we stop our children from killing our children?  See http://www.chicagonow.com/your-doubting-thomas/2012/07/what-blame-does-black-america-have-in-chicago%e2%80%99s-rising-murder-rate/

Fox News contributor, Bernie Goldberg, suggested that "nothing is going to change in Black America for the better as long as you have 72.5% of all the babies born with no father around." In all honestly, I don’t know if that statistic is correct, but I was willing– along with many of you– to accept it and discuss of consequences of such a statistic.

I made some generalizations. Anecdotally, we all know women who have had a child or children before they were ready. And it happens. What is alarming in our community is the frequency. And, although I’m generalizing again, many of us seem willing to agree that the neighborhoods where the gunfire is the worst are the same areas where more of our children and having children.

So now what?

It’s easy to preach "get an education and don’t get pregnant" and go on living busy lives. It’s too easy for us to tell our brothers and sisters: "don’t do this and do that instead, good luck" and "take care of yourself." Then leave, go home and take care of our own children.

But honestly, that’s where we need to start. Our own homes.

In my home growing up, my mother had the closet in my parents’ bedroom. My father was forced to put his suits in my closet. So every morning after he showered, he’d come into my room and put on that closet light as I was waking up. I would silently see him put on a shirt, suit and tie and leave our home to get on a train downtown to go to work.

There were times growing up I was a complete dork in wanting to emulate my father, using a backgammon case as my little briefcase. But I didn’t realize the impact of seeing my father put on a suit everyday, until I was walking along Madison Street in my own suit, briefcase in hand. And it hit me like a brick.  There is no way I would have gotten to that position– and the position I am now in– without having that silent example in front of me day in, day out, every day as I grew up.

"It’s tough to be what you don’t see."

These are the words of Tim King, the CEO and Founder of Urban Prep Academies. Urban Prep Academy for young men in Englewood was founded in 2006. The former President of Hales Franciscan High School, Mr. King said he "wanted to create a school that was going to put black boys in a different place, and in my mind that place needed to be college." Since then, he has put 100% of three graduating classes in four year colleges and universities.

"It’s tough to be what you don’t see."

So, first we must provide an example in our homes for our children. The example we provide our children will speak far louder than any words we use.

But that’s not enough. I’m still left awake at night thinking: So now what?

Gloria Weatherspoon’s comment on Tuesday’s post "What blame does Black America have in Chicago’s rising murder rate?"stuck:

In the day of my mother and grandmother the mantra was, it takes a community to raise a child, now we turn our backs, mind our business and if it doesn’t affect us directly we turn a blind eye cause we don’t want to get involved. Why is that? We are raising a society of children who does not care about their fellow man or woman for that matter. We are raising a culture of children who have no clue what accountability is because we make every excuse in the book as to why they can't do but are we telling them why they CAN do? How many of us are apart of mentoring groups? How many of us has reached out to those who can reach our lost children and said hey tell these babies your story? You have been where they are now and you can make a difference. We should all feel accountable. Just my 2 cents. This is a heated topic on one of my friends face book pages also, while its a good subject to talk about, if all we are doing is talking then we are failing.

Her comment made me reevaluate what I’m doing. I have found myself in front of audiences of black children speaking about the hard work involved with obtaining a law degree. But those audiences don’t need to hear from me. I’m reinforcement. The kids I find myself in front of are hearing the same message from me they are already getting at home. Although reinforcement is important– don’t tell me that in successful suburban communities the message of go to school, work hard and hopefully prosper isn’t reinforced daily when those kids go to their friends’ homes– it’s definitely time for us to be more visible in neighborhoods outside our own.

Individually, we can’t solve the problem. It’s too big for any one individual. However, individually, we can save a life. You only need to make a difference in one life.

In 1986, I was stuck in the University of Chicago Hospital recovering from a kidney transplant. The recovery was pretty tough as I caught some sort of dangerous bug that affected my nervous system. My mother and I were scared, likely unnecessarily, but scared nonetheless. A cancer patient named Maria was in the room next door. She came over daily and we played. We drew; we took walks; we read; we hung out; we were kids. For those weeks, she took my mind off my condition and put it back on me– who I was. With her help, I got better. I got stronger. And eventually I left the hospital.

Maria never left.

In one way, she did leave that hospital. She has been with me on my journey since leaving the hospital back in December 1986. She touched my life and in so doing, changed it for the better.

And that’s what we need to do; we need to have an impact on one life. It is possible. The President of the United States is black. Why can’t my daughter be president? The CEO of McDonald’s is black– why can’t your son be the president of a multinational Fortune 500 company? It’s not like we don’t have role models out there.

We could probably just use a couple more a little closer to home.

So check out the Chicago Urban League (www.chicagourbanleague.org). If you’re out west, check out Vision of Restoration, in Maywood (I haven’t been there in years and must get back. The website is at www.vorhelp.org); check out Pastor Corey Brooks, at www.projecthood.org who is downright crazy in terms of how he gets attention to the violence in our streets (sleeping on rooftops and walking across America).

Another thing we all have to do is speak up. If we agree that our community can do things differently to lift itself up, then we can’t be afraid to say it. I think we will find there is more support for basic positions, like get an education and don’t get pregnant before you can afford to raise a child, but fear being labeled "not black enough" for saying it.

And let’s start holding our leaders accountable. Let’s force our leaders to get in front of the camera to question our own actions, rather than solely to question the actions of others upon us. And its also time we demand the media to put more cameras in front of people like Pastor Corey Brooks and Tim King– who are focusing on what we’re doing to ourselves– instead of Al Sharpton, who always seems to find a camera when we were wronged by another community. And don’t get me wrong, Rev. Sharpton is a voice we need and has done a hell of a lot more than I or anyone else I know; however, he doesn’t speak for 38.9 million of us. The black community is a wonderful, large mosaic of stories and voices, many many more than Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson. American needs to hear those voices as well. So speak up, so we can be heard.

Filed under: Change of Pace, Chicagoist


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  • This is a refreshing change from "Why Is The Black Community "Responsible" Every Time A North Side Mob Beating Occurs?" on "I Hate My Developer" of July 6, and you can look at my response there. That was also similar to the "Why Hatred of Islam is not Logical" post on Midwest Muslim of May 24, to which I replied that Muslims should at least speak out that the terrorists have hijacked their religion, instead of relying on "don't blame me."*

    I'm not in a position to say what Black America should do, but at least you opened the inquiry.

    *The link to the body of that post is apparently dead.

  • I think the African American community can do three things to reverse this trend.
    (In no particular order)
    1) Go back to expecting two parent, married, traditional families.
    2) Stop with the anti-education culture
    3) Stop with the "we don't snitch" nonsense.

  • Warner is right. But more can be added to the list such as stopping if a black person is educated that they are acting "white."

  • Thanks for commenting. Warner you are right. If you have a minute, read Tuesday's post (linked at the top of the page). Warner, although I didn't call it "traditional" families, I did say that if the black community continues with our high rate of having children out of wedlock, violence in our community will continue. And I completely agree with the having to stress education. 100% agree. Education is the key to success.

    Evan, I completely agree with you as well. On Tuesday, I mentioned we have to stop with equating education to "talking" and "acting" white. That struck a nerve with a couple commenters too.

    Thanks again for readign and caring enough to comment.

  • I agree with most of the comments but what do we do until all the above happens? The fact remains all black young men will not go to college, heck most want graduate from high school so this is where your average thug evolves from, how do you help society's helpless? Ya I know another question, until we fix ths problem today we will have more youg men being killed, and locked up at alarming rates. The solution to the black man problems is simple " money" stop asking for hand outs, and please stop begging some one to hire you, hire your self this is America there are no limitations to what you can do and contrary to what society says education is not the only way to make a good living. If you want to see a Ghetto turn into a flourishing, and thriving community do this one simple thing " create a non-government funded cash flow in that community with those uneducated brothers. Remember this " a man can earn a honest, and very well paying living doing any thing. People it is that simple

  • In reply to leecubs:

    You make an excellent point. I'm not certain what to do in the short term, although you do bring up a good suggestion.

    I think it happens one block at a time. Like Malcolm Gladell suggested in Tipping Point when he discussed the Broken Windows Theory and Bernie Goetz. You clean up the little things (broken windows, graffiti), and the neighborhood (or subway) is less attractive for crime. That's what happened on NYC's subway back in the 80s and Rahm is trying to institute that here now on the CTA .

  • It didn't occur to me that Mr. Romney paid no taxes! I figured he applied for the amnesty. Gee.
    I want Mr. Romney to tell the American public why univeral health care coverage is good for Massachusetts but not good for the rest of the country. Why is a limitation on the sale of automatic assault weapons is good for Massachusetts but not good for the rest of us?

  • I have an apparel company called The West Englewood Dynasty which is named after the street I grew up on in Chicago as a tribute to all the wonderful people who made me who I am today. Of course, this recent overwhelming amount of news really hits home for me. I love your call for action, because this morning as I read about yet another murdered child due to gang violence, I composed an email to a friend with a link to the article and a caption asking, "What are the police doing?" I deleted the email and instead asked myself, "What am I doing?" I've done some work with different organizations before, but truth be told, I could be more involved. I was fortunate enough to have so many guiding forces in my life as a child who didn't idly sit by when I needed the help. We can't afford to do that either.

    Thank you for the information provided!

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    I believe that the core of our problems within the Black community lay with America's failure to properly educate its Black Students.. Please read my new book" The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement: Failure of America's Public Schools to Properly Educate its African American Student Populations.." The book can be previewed on Amazon.com..

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