By Nate Jackson
(Part II of Two Parts)
One of the most unfortunate outcomes of the lack of guidance is our children dropping out of school at early ages. This is obviously one of the most serious handicaps because without some form of education, the likelihood of obtaining a quality job is extremely low. Therefore, the cycle of poverty is shifted to the next generation, and these obstacles make both males and females more susceptible to commit crimes in order to survive. High pregnancy rates and increased promiscuity among young people, coupled with higher numbers among Blacks with STD’s and AIDS cripples the community. Add to the stewpot, the sensationalizing of the sale and use of illegal drugs and our children’s futures are destroyed before it begins. In fact, drugs are one of the top reasons that our Black males are killing and being killed.
Entertainment, such as rap music, can be a fantastic method to communicate positively to the new generation. But, so often when negative behaviors are promoted through destructive material that conveys abuse, violence, neglect, and disrespect, it can be fatal. Tupac Shakur is an excellent example of a young brilliant artist whose life was cut short too soon. “Thug life” has a magnet attraction and our boys and girls are being drawn to this life style with an almost certain destruction. For example, the illusion that thugs wear their pants below the waist exposing the underwear or revealing the naked butt is considered “cool”. Black males (and females) don’t realize how this displays a lack of respect for themselves. Instead of exhibiting confidence through their appearance, it shows a form of ignorance. The origin of this fad was launched from the penal system. Homosexual males in prison would wear their pants in this style so they could be identified as available to other men. Such behavior has an appeal that young Black men view as exciting, free, and fun, not realizing its consequences.
I have mentioned only a few concerns about the destructive path laid out in our community. But, the bigger more important issue is; how can this problem be rectified or remedied? This problem did not instantaneously develop and it will take time to resolve. I am from the “old school”, where the term “It takes a village to raise a child” was in full effect, and it played an important role in the mentoring of children. The very first form of guidance commences in the home with mom and dad and then everyone else looks out for and pitches in to help. I firmly believe this includes our faith-based institutions. They play a significant role in building strong communities. One of the problems is “the village” is a thing of the past. We must stop being so quick to fight, yet slow to assist.
As stated, education is also a key. Education is the component that cannot be extracted from an individual, but is one of the keys to success. Our children should be reading more and watching television less. Our communities must come together to form more school support systems that promote positivity. This includes the development of better parent-teachers- community relations, all working as one and with one aim. Children must be guided and disciplined (not al-ways punished) within and without the school. And those adults who have not finished their education should be compelled by their community leaders to reinstate themselves in order to provide a better life for themselves and their children.
Many years ago I mentored a young Black man who was at-risk. I visited his high school each week and spent time with him. His desire was to attend an alternate school because he didn’t fit in at the regular high school. I had our son (who was a freshman in college and close to his age) talk with him, but with no success. After a while, I visited the school on several occasion and called his home, but I could not find him.
After two weeks, I received a call from the school’s resource officer and was told he had been involved in a robbery and a homicide. I visited him in jail, but there wasn’t much advice I could offer because he eventually received a long jail sentence. I truly felt that I had failed this young man. In my career and personally, I’ve felt much grief and I continue to feel the anger and discomfort when it comes to our young people. Yet, I still fight for change. During my tenure with the police department, I was successful in having an after-school program at six elementary schools in at-risk communities.
The program was called AIM HIGH (Alternate Intervention Methods to Help Improve Grades and Hope) and was approved by the Board of Education. It was designed to assist children in communication, with emphasis on the number one fear, which is public speaking and self-expression. For three years the program was a great success.
My story is based on over 30 years of working in poverty stricken, at-risk neighborhoods. Yet, it barely scratches the surface of the problems that plague the Black community. I sincerely hope this article will be the catalyst to healing and the progressing of young Black men and women in our community.
We must tackle the problem at its core and break the cycle through empowerment amongst ourselves, and not through violence and destructiveness.