Filed Under:  Columns, Letter to the Editor, Opinion

An open letter to Black leaders/parents

9th December 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

“My whole head went flying to the side! It was a hard punch,” said Phoebe Connolly of Vermont. “One kid came from the side and pretty much cut me off. He threw a hook with his left hand and got me right in the face and he said, ‘Wapow!’” She said that she was targeted while riding her bike in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, D.C.

No game at all, the so-called “knockout game” is the latest bit of insanity infecting some of our young black males who mistakenly consider this sucker-punching, shameless practice a display of manliness and daring. But what manly person targets and blindsides women with children, the elderly or any unsuspecting person of any age? Only cowards do.

To our wayward youth who find family and comfort in gangs and in an irrational life on the streets, we say there is a much more rewarding life than the one to which you cling. The manliness and daring you claim to flaunt in the deadly knockout game proves only that you are light years short of being mature, manly or worthy of being trusted by other humans.

Fortunately, we can say with assurance that those young thugs are a distinct minority of our youth. But how many of them have a stable home with at least one dedicated parent, preferably both? We already know what the answer is, given the crippling fact that not even one in three of our black families is nuclear, and single parents are handicapped by count.

I have asked this before and I ask it again, searching for an intangible, very loose piece in today’s puzzle of the black family, “How many of our children are dangerously neurotic, even borderline psychotic?” This question is magnified in the case of 53-year-old Joseph who awoke to an attacker’s cry for blood as a knife blade plunged into his throat.

“Kill that bleeping…!” howled one of two suspects — a Crips member known on the streets as “Murder.” Joseph somehow survived the attack in his Flatbush home after the savage assailants stabbed him in the face, chest, neck, arms, legs and back. All this happened after the 14-year-old daughter whom he adored had given him a tender goodnight kiss.

As you may have guessed, the troubled teen had an unsavory relationship with the gang member and had even falsely accused her father of having abused and raped her. Her same borderline neurotic/psychotic tendency differs little from that of animalistic gangsters attempting in vain to stake their sleazy claim to manliness and surreptitious daring.

That confused teen’s case seems to have been an anomaly, given her father’s total dedication to her well-being. Since her hostility to her father seems completely unwarranted, perhaps the true hostility came from the apparent absence of her mother in her life.

As we navigate Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day, can we not even give thanks that we walk on civilized streets, free of mortal anxiety about young predators and deadly environs? Irony stalks and haunts this hallowed time of the year when we rededicate ourselves to giving special thanks for all the good people and good things in our lives as well as for the oft seemingly unattainable peace on earth to people of good will.

Can such predatory insanity be stopped? Yes! The most immediate remedy is for leaders of the stamp of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others to confront the young gang members with their authority and impunity. That, of course, is but step one. “It takes a village to rear a child” is truer now than ever in our homes and in our streets.

To our black leaders and parents – other ethnic leaders and parents as well – the time is short, almost running out on our opportunity to reclaim our youth from the hellhole of the streets and gangs. What ever happened to the mid-1990s successful Boston Strategy To End Youth Violence? Why haven’t other cities imitated that proven template of success?

In short, that template brings together parents, youth leaders, school leaders, church leaders, youth organizations, groups like Maddads, Fathers First, police, probation officers, gangs, social outreach groups, jobs outreach groups, community planners and organizers.

Gang leaders have responded positively to being brought into the communal solution.

Perhaps implementation of the Boston Strategy or a reasonable facsimile through total community communication and cooperation is the best hope for reclaiming our youth by a timely reversal of gang culture, gang mentality, gang values and the drug culture.

Preeminent among the above-mentioned groups are Fathers First and Maddads. These two and a couple of other father-centered groups deal with the beleaguered nuclear black family that is the linchpin, the very foundation of all that goes on in any given community.

An acronym for Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder, Minneapolis-based Maddads were founded in May 1989 by Omaha, Nebraska African-American men infuriated by gang violence and illegal drugs. They promote positive images of fathers.

This article originally published in the December 9, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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