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From the desk of Darel Ross II, LINC's Co-Executive Director:
Looking out of my window onto a street that many youth affectionately refer to as “Mad Ave” (short for Madison Avenue) on the SE side of Grand Rapids, where a 14-year-old young man was shot in broad daylight at 2pm on Tuesday April 24, I begin to ponder the stereotypical ideologies which have transformed the “culture” of our community. Merriam-Webster defines culture as "cultivation; the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education." So I ask, from one generation to the next, what ideologies have we as parents helped to cultivate and perpetuate within the minds of our youth? Has it become our “culture” to allow our youth to shoot one another and remain silent? Has it become our “culture” to equate acts of violence with becoming a man and revenge as one of its rights of passages? Has our “culture” embraced the cultivation of stereotypical ignorance over intellect and morality?
I’m devastated because school isn’t even out. We have yet to see the summer time heat and the youth are already working to kill one another. I no longer look forward to the long hot days of July as I fear that our children will attempt to exterminate one another at the first hint of 80 degrees, personifying and perfecting this “culture” of ignorance and recklessness. Are we so disconnected as a community that we don’t care about the violence until it touches our child? We act as though we are unaware of the years of inequitable policies which have yielded racialized outcomes resulting in black youth populating cell blocks faster than any other race.
Before we point fingers at the parents, because that’s the easy thing to do, we must recognize this is not simply a parental responsibility – it is a collective responsibility. It is the responsibility of the community as a whole to do their part in helping to raise our children. The young victim should have been in school at the time of the shooting. Why was the child allowed to walk the streets freely at 2pm on a school day and take the city bus without concern or a “heads up” being sent to the school or to the home of the child.
And why should the police care about a community that doesn’t care about itself? How can we ask the police to be responsible for solving a crime when we aren’t responsible for the children who commit them? Of course the child bears his or her own responsibility and they have to live with the consequences of their actions but so do we! These actions are perpetuated based on our unwillingness and inability to take action and set strong examples for the children within our community.
What kind of examples have we been for our youth, and who are the examples for our children to look up to and model? What has our “culture” become when our youth would rather model the actions of a rapper or character in a movie before modeling the actions of their own parents or community leaders?
I cringe at the thought that this epidemic of youth-inflicted mayhem could possibly get worse. So we have two choices. We can perpetuate the ignorance that our “culture” has grown to embrace or we can become the instruments of cultivation to develop the intellectual and moral faculties within our own children to create a safe and thriving community. I choose the latter. Who is with me?
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