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.