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Black Community Opinions

Local Voices: Helping Our Black Boys To Success

By John L. Horton

We cannot reasonably expect others to do those things that we should do for ourselves. – Paul Robeson

Recent media coverage about crime and violence in the Hampton Roads area, specifically in some of our inner city and disadvantaged communities, caught my attention. While there is much “huffing and puffing” as to how to deal with these “crime and violence” issues, not much will improve for these neighborhoods and the rest of us until substantive and permanent “social-economic-political” issues are properly addressed and resolved.

Being a 75-year-old African-American male who has recently worked in juvenile justice, social services and public schools, my heart aches and my mind is troubled every day of my existence. This is because I see so many of our youths, especially African-American males, who have gone astray and/or who have no future in terms of achievement and success.

These disenchanted youths are profoundly alienated and they are experiencing a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. They do not feel as if they belong in today’s or tomorrow’s society – at least not as a positive force and/or contributing factor. These youths feel as if they are society’s lost cause…its scapegoat. As a result, they feel no connection, no investment, no ownership, or no partnership in their community and society at large.

Without further delay, we as a nation must help our young Black males to “see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.” For, they, too, are our “brothers” and our “children.” In essence, we are our “brothers’ keepers.” To quote Paul Robeson, “We cannot reasonably expect others to do those things that we should do for ourselves.”

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The time has come for African-American men, especially fathers and elders, to accept collective responsibility for making things happen…and for bringing about positive changes in our families and communities.

Rather than accept these gloomy realities and negative projections that buffet us, we need to come up with some strategies and solutions to empower ourselves. Together, we can overcome many of the social, economic and political ills that befall us. In that regard, we can overcome tremendous odds and obstacles by doing the following:

–Show a willingness to know something, to be smart, to be curious, and to be willing to learn and accomplish a lot more. While the world we inhabit may not be all fair or just, as a people we must be “willing to try.” We need to perform and achieve at our maximum capacity. For, the time for action and result is now. We owe it to ourselves to give life our best shot.

• Contribute on an individual and communal basis by giving assistance to whomever is most in need. We need to give more of our time, skills, knowledge, money and leadership to others. For, if it is to be, it is up to us. We can no longer expect others to do those things that we need to do for ourselves.

• Implement effective strategies and methodologies on how to involve parents, particularly “missing fathers,” in the raising and nurturing of their children.

• Create ways to plant the seeds of self-esteem and group empowerment early on, particularly for at-risk and disadvantaged children, families and communities.

–Learn about “Silver Rights.” Be concerned and knowledgeable about competitive education, economic literacy, job training, and entrepreneurial development. Make this the essence of “being in the know” and “what’s happening.”

–Live the “Golden Rule.” Be concerned and knowledgeable about pay equity, saving, investing, ownership and producing. Never forget the old adage, “He who has the gold gets to make the rules.”

In closing, my peers and colleagues have told me on a regular basis that this is too daunting a task to undertake. I strongly disagree. This is an “honorable” and “humane” thing and it can be done.

All we have to do is put our minds, hearts and backs into it. Now is the time to do this. We can wait no longer. Let “us” do what needs to be done. “We” will truly be the better for it.

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John L. Horton is a retiree Marine and resident of Norfolk. He is a frequent contributor to this paper.

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