The politics of service distinguishes truth from political pandering
By Derek Joy
Consider the recent incident in which a young teenage charter school student allegedly shot and killed a 13-year old female schoolmate.
Happened on their way to school in southwest Miami Dade County, they were on their way to school. Add that to the other teenagers – especially Black American males – killed by gun violence and the picturesque view looms as an epidemic.
So, let me tell you a story.
There I was sitting in New Hope M.B. Church, listening to Bishop Randall E. Holts eulogize one of my high school classmates, Betty “Rabbit” Lawrence Parsons. She was the second of two classmates to have died within the past month. James “Skeleco” Newbold was the other.
Both Newbold and Parsons were 64. Each died of natural causes. And both lived a productive and relatively long life when compared to how fast Black American males are being killed today.
While the funeral services progressed, my mind embraced some connecting events of the past.
As Congresswoman Fredrica Wilson kicked off the Veteran’s Day weekend with a program at the American Legion Hall in Legion Park honoring U.S. Armed Forces Veterans, she painted a true picture of service.
Wilson, who was born in Overtown and raised in Liberty City to graduate from then Northwestern High School in 1959, noted how “Everybody in the neighborhood saw soldiers heroes.”
And so it was, as it is today. But, in Wilson’s eyes, “Too many of our young Black men are being killed on urban streets.”
So true, especially coming from one who has toiled in the public service vineyards as a teacher, principal, Miami Dade Public Schools Board Member, founder of the 5,000 ROLE MODELS OF EXCELLENCE, Florida State Representative and Senator, and U.S. Congresswoman.
“When I founded the ROLE MODELS I called on veterans first because they were strong men. I’ve always wished that the children of today would have the opportunity that you had.
“We have so many Black boys killed on urban streets. You know, if we could get these boys to raise their hands (for military service) and become better, stronger men instead of killing and being killed on the streets,” Wilson told the Veterans.
That’s a mouth full of truth in political service, contrary to the pandering we so often find among politicians. Yeah. There are those who simply talk to sound good and curry favor.
Not so with Wilson. There is a real need to act on what she is advocating to help resolve the near epidemic number of young Black American males being killed on urban streets.
Consequently, my mind shifted back awhile to a conversation I had with Third District of Appeal Judges Leslie Bette Rothenberg and Rudy Sorondo, who were Miami Dade County Circuit Judges at the time.
It is amazing how sitting a t a funeral leads one’s mind in such a dot connecting matrix.
Judge Rothenberg found my military service interesting, particularly since I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force within weeks after graduating from Northwestern High School in 1965. She, along with Judge Sorondo, wanted to know why.
One obvious reason was as Wilson described the way it was in her youth. “You either went to college or to the military.”
However, my reasons were a bit deeper.
I simply explained to them the overlooked obvious. In short, I told them it would be a little less painful and a lot less embarrassing to your family to be killed in service to your country rather than on the streets over nothing.