Thursday, April 17, 2008

Saving the Babies...

At this point, I am sure many of you have at least heard about the Jolita Berry story from Baltimore, MD. (Visit the above link to watch the video) Ms. Berry is an art teacher was assaulted by one of her students. Fortunately for Ms. Berry, someone videotaped the incident since the school administration was ready to put her on thehot plate for catching an L in her classroom. I know I am joking about this. Yet it is serious business. As usual, the mainstream media is running with this. True to their mantra of "if it bleeds,it sells," they are having a virtual field day with it.I expect the mainstream media to echo the Moynihan Report and tomake their little jungle statements. It doesn't bother me.Oftentimes, the mainstream media creates these furors only to make money out of them. What bothers me is what I am hearing from everyday people on and off the street.

It bothers me to hear people I know and love say "those people," or "they need to get their act straight." It's as if we are talking about Cylons or something. Weact as if our babies live in a zoo. We treat them like they are hamsters in a lab.I have several close friends who are teachers in several run-down inner city schools. Many of them have horror stories. I had the opportunity to work with young people in several cities and actually worked in a group home for close to two years. I, too, have my share of horror stories. Yet it bothers me to hear our own consider our babies animals or as if they are beneath us.Watching Ms. Berry on the video getting beat while the other children egg the victimiser on says so much about OUR society. Yes,it is our society. People make up that society. WE are those people.I hear too many folks blame the school system. I hear too many folks blame the teachers. Yet no one is ready to accept responsibility.

I remember living in Norfolk, VA and I heard all these people whisper about gangs. It was amazing. I attended a so called police summit on gangs and was outraged at what I heard. There were mothers there who came out and explained how the police were racially profiling their sons. Yet the police and the politicians as well as the citizens sat there as if no one was speaking.If we don't accept some responsibility, it will only get worse. I know this sounds terrible, but I use this story on folks to get them to wake up:There was a man who raised his only son to be the best. His son was in honors all his life. His son was an all star athlete, active in the church, and volunteered at an old folks home when he could. Hisson easily earned a scholarship to an IVY league university. One day while his son was visiting his parents, he decided to go out with his friends. They went out to a club and on the way home were caught up in a drive by. The young man died upon arrival at the hospital.At the funeral, the father got up and spoke. "I did everything I could for my son to be the best he could be." The crowd clapped and amen'ed at that statement. "But I failed to ensure that the other boys in his neighborhood had just a few of the opportunities my son had."Now of course, the problems with our babies is multifaceted. It is going to take money, people, laws and bills being passed, resources,and most of all courage to save our babies. Yet I want to point out that we are all in this. We all have to chip in. I am not saying we all have to be school teachers or we all have to go out there and mediate gang disputes. Everyone has a job and everyone has somethingto contribute. We should not treat it as something that will go away or won't happen to us or someone we care about.

All my children go to public school. Two out of three go to schools in an inner city. All are doing well. I realized that a proper education needs the involvement of the parents. I say this not just for my children but for other children as well. They take their cues from us. When the babies see me come to pick up my son, they knowwho I am. All of our babies act accordingly. Our babies understand.One can send his or her babies to a private school, but if they are not involved, its all for naught. Trust.Let's stop pointing fingers. Let's do something. If you are single,sign up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They are Rites of Passage programs in almost every major city in the United States. They are always looking for people to lend a hand in any way they can. If you have a degree or working on one, become a tutor. The local libraries have programs where one can come and read to the babies. Become a sports coach. Teach martial arts in a local school. If you are looking for a career that always brings challenges, become a teacher. Trust me, it's not for the weak at heart.Finally, when you get the chance, thank your babies teachers. They are on the front lines and they need all the support we can get.

For all you elitist folks out there, if you don't visit the bad neighborhood, the bad neighborhood will visit you.
Brother Omi

The Conscious Community
The Imani Foundation

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