Is gun violence something new or a continuation of the past? In 1960-1970 the average life expectancy of Black males was 20 years of age or younger. These statistics still exist. As an African- American, I would like to speak to us and for us. When I graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans, LA, I had a job offer to teach in St. Louis but stopped in Chicago on my way. Intrigued with Chicago, I decided to stay and find a job. Fortunate for me, there were teaching positions available. Only 19, I was very naïve about Chicago, even about selecting a school. Out of all the choices, I selected Cregier Vocational H.S., a school for only males, on the violent Westside. The whole school was a behavioral disorder; furthermore, some students were on work release programs from jail. Now looking back, the lives of the young people, as well as the atmosphere, have not changed much.
During my first year of teaching, my records were subpoenaed because one of my students committed murder, so I had to testify about his attendance in school. Sometimes students were afraid to take public transportation because the buses became shooting targets. The FBI would regularly visit our school to question students or make an arrest. Through it all, I loved my students and gave them all the opportunities to learn and grow, yet I knew the odds were stacked against them.
We can even trace back to the '60s when a majority of African Americans were still educationally deprived and had little hope of getting an unskilled or semiskilled job at the lower end of the income scale. Broken families were the larger community setting and poverty prevailed. In the '70s, the title, "Black on Black Crime", was on an Ebony Magazine. Marvin Gaye sang about these problems: "Save the Children" and "What's Going On."
Politicians, community leaders, religious leaders, educators, and many more continue to try to come up with solutions. However, we need to dig a little deeper and further into the causes. The list is long. There are low-paying menial jobs, institutional racism, unemployment, drugs, urbanization, and family breakdown, and inadequate prison system, a double standard of justice, media and crime. This is a national emergency, and we need action and better remedies to stop the violence.
At the outset, the cures first start with self. We, as African Americans, play a vital role in transforming our freedom into equal opportunities. We need to make better choices about time, energy, and money. No one can better motivate us, develop the ability, and instill the values that will give true meaning and direction to our lives. It is the duty of individual families and communities. Most importantly, the government priorities need to change; we need proper education, jobs, and resources. African Americans need to return to spiritual values that mold individual character, strengthen trust and respect. Morality is one of the best cures for crime. Last but not least, we are gifted and intelligent, so let us hold our heads up high and be proud.
I end this with a message to my brothers and sisters. "If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values - that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control." Martin Luther King, Jr.