This post was entered as it drives home the reason for The Imani Foundation's Black Improvement Movement. It also affects a member of the local community here in the 757. Contact Brother Cook at his email address below to become active in his community improvement efforts.
Pray all is well on your end. For three nights I have struggled to write this email...you see for some reason violence has hit home...again with my 14 y.o. son, Cal....
He was shot in the leg out in Grandy Village Friday evening about 7:00pm on his way to play basketball. He is ok now and back home. We have not heard if the assailants were caught but believe they are young african american young men less 15-18 yo who had a confrontation with another group of youth. The incident escalated as my son and his friend were about Bottomline though is that we are truly blessed that he is alive and relatively well.
We have heard a chorus of voices expressing their regrets while seemingly questioning where we live, who he associates with and how Sharon and I parent this young man. So I want make some points here and respond to these questions:
We are indeed going through the maze of thoughts of what we could have done to prevent this? should we have gone further then the restrictions already in place? should have kept this young in the house? should we restrict his friends?
+ the fact of the matter is that the past history of violence amongst our youth is indiscriminate of location, victims...the only way to protect my son and all of us that live here is do something about crime in all of our communities. Besides "we" have other sons like the late "Dennis Johnson, Dominque Young, Derrius Walton and a number of others that we could ask the same questions: What could we have done to prevent their demise?
I have been asked sarcastically "where do you live? My wife and I have decided that our next response to that question will be "we live in the United States." This is not to be sarcastic but to reflect on the issue that our community is much broader than our front yards....if we believe that what happens in someone elses neighborhood can not happen in ours, we are mistaken. I will change a few words of MLK "[Violence] anywhere is a threat to [Peace and security] everywhere."
"Who do we allow him to associate with?" - Of course we are cautious about his friends. Of course we look for signs of bad influence. But what are we as parents, any of us to do? lock our children in their rooms? We had restricted his visits to Grandy village for about a month. For years we have reminded our son that he is a leader amongst his peersand that the privelege he lives is requirement to serve those who might be less fortunate. Our home is the second home for a lot of young men like him from all over the community, including Grandy Village. We have barred a few from the house but for the most part we have opened our doors, as my parents did when I was a child in the same house.
One parent even said "I dont allow my son to hang with "those kids." I would caution us all to remember what our superintendent said "those children are our children." Those children are among the 32,000 I serve as a member of the school board. The parents of some of "those children" in Grandy Village held my wife and prayed with her while she stood on the other side of the crime scene tape not knowing the extent of his injuries. One of them saw my son bleeding profusely and called him to her porch while calling 911. We can't point fingers at a portion of our community and accept their plight without understanding their plight could soon be our plight. Again, MLK in his letter from the Birmingham jail, said our "plights are inexplicably tied together."
As a public servant my son represents all of the children that I serve and have served in this community as a youth pastor, a counselor, civic league president and now as a school board member. So this is why I share my personal story like this...because what happens to him can happen to any of our children. Sharon and I have personally been connected with a number of other youth in this city who have been victims and the perpetrators of crime in our city...So they are all ours....so I hope that my sharing this with you, you too will learn to see "those children, as your children." We hope that you would become so outraged that you too not settle for nothing less than an end to violence in our community.Collectively, we have to take back every segment of our community where any of us or our children can walk safely without the threat of violence.
Sharon and I are not exactly certain what we are to do in response to this but we plan to address our city council and ask for a collective response to the spate of violence. We are considering a press conference held by families of many of the crime victims in our city.We believe that we need a collective voice in Norfolk to get out to the growing criminal element and to the all our residents in our city that we will not stand for violence in any portion of our community. As for my son, Cal, we strongly believe that God has a special calling on his life and that everything that happens to him will work "together for his good" and for the legacy of serving others that is part of my family's DNA.
Sorry to be so lengthy. Please keep our family in your prayers. Thanks.
Billy and Sharon Cook