At any given moment, countless Baltimore youth are facing harsh realities accompanied by fading dreams. Since coming to this city, I have had many conversations. They have included everyone from the young man being raised by a single mom, now a dad himself to the young lady seeking approval from a “too busy mom” to the young man wrestling with his sexual identity with absolutely no healing or help from a single man in his brown skin community. Our youth need the one tool that could provide solutions for each of these. That tool is community.
Gone are the days of the connected village. Now it is replaced by a disconnected array of programs, services, halfhearted attempts and loveless discipline, all shrouded by an adult community that is seemingly, unwilling to budge, change or transform themselves to be of greater service to our youth. However, despite this blight, many youth are beating the odds. They struggle each day to transcend where they are and what society has dictated they become. Still, many of our youth have not yet awaken to the powerful reality of who and what they can become.
How do we support both groups? How do we support our youth who are beating the odds, attending school, bettering neighborhoods, succeeding and giving back? How also, do we stand beside our youth who think they are surviving on their own terms, but are truly being lost to a mindset and cultural black hole, perpetrated by poor leadership, parenthood and service by US? We (the adult community) must get it TOGETHER! The only way we will be able to drastically reduce the number of youth who live outside of their purpose and die in their ignorance, is for us to make a conscious decision to WORK together. In a city where our graduation rate for African American males is 57%, surely Baltimore City Schools and its 83,000 students could benefit from a massive volunteer base. In a city where more than 36,000 children live in poverty, surely our families could benefit from a thriving network of churches who are sharing resources to help erase the ills of lack of home ownership, job readiness and financial literacy, not to mention spiritual awakening. In a city where last year, over 6,000 youth were arrested, surely our young people could benefit from a sea of opportunities and mentors who are married, single, upper class, middle class, lower middle class, in college, unemployed, but all ready to give, love and share from their own experiences.
We must develop a practical, nuts and bolts approach to real community that results in a power that transforms culture itself! This synergy must wrap itself around our young people and families in every arena and environment. This includes home, school, church, government, nonprofit, and everywhere else in between. We must hold each other accountable to each of our roles in the lives of our youth. Parents must parent! Teachers must teach! Pastors must pastor! Civil servants must serve civilly. It can no longer hinge upon the so called great and mighty of our community, but each and every one of us must put our hand to the plow. The conversations in City Hall must also be held in our living rooms, sanctuaries, community centers, malls, businesses and street corners. To say that time is of the essence is an understatement. We must act now! We have a lot of work to do Baltimore and it is feasible, but we can no longer allow complacency, fear, placing blame or any other tactic to thwart our efforts. We must act now and GET IT TOGETHER!