_And I Will Fear No Evil_
by Lennox V. Farrell
The Lord is my shepherd in spite of it all: the violence, the disrespect, the irresponsibility, and it is therefore necessary to emphasize the obvious, that the vast majority of youth -and in this instance within the African-Canadian community- are good. That they try to walk worthy and yearn so to be acknowledged.
It is also necessary to believe, and to toil with passionate will and boundless determination, believing that there are ready solutions to this seemingly, senseless violence which, like smog free-floating over urban projects, envelops our youth in a haze that dims their humanity, our struggles and future.
It is necessary for us, adults about to give up on them, to remember that while we were once their age, never were we our children's age in their danger-filled kind of time; times of hopelessness as ubiquitous as consumer items; of democracies morphing into pornocracies.
It is necessary, while showing consistent displeasure for displays of coarseness, that we also love our youth, regardless. They must know that our love for them is unwavering and endless. They must know, too, that our expectations of them are high, yet attainable. Given half a hope, they will out-perform every positive expectation had of them. So, too, will they out-perform on negatives.
So, at specified times, at least once each week, gather the family; our family together. Turn off the television, the radio, the telephone and converse with our children. The earlier the age begun, the better. But, better late that never. And it is our men, fathers especially, to initiate these. Women are already overwrought! Then, speak of our historical struggles and accomplishments. Read books. In too many homes, book shelves are lined, not with books but with videos. Recite the family heritage. Pray. Sing. But most of all, bless the youth with opportunities to speak and to know that they are being listened to.
Thus will they develop a sense of anticipation. Otherwise called hope.
One of their perennial complaints is that no one takes them seriously - until they do something horrid, or even worse in their eyes, something really stupid!
Give them choices, too, and respect these. They can make decisions as when they will do assigned chores, for example, before or after supper - providing there is supper. In addition, allow them to fail sometimes. From failure they and we have opportunity to learn the skills of patience, creativity and caring.
It is thus that they will develop, too, a sense of consequence. Otherwise called, taking responsibility for one's actions.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
- drug-dealing barons and whore-inspiring dance-hall baronesses;
- pastors more diligent about life after death than of life before birth;
- teachers being prepared more to train consumers than to teach humans;
- a culture which profits more by waging war than making peace, and now at war against its youth;
- business tycoons whose idea of consumer choice is between dying either of starvation or of cancer;
- elected and appointed officials, indecent about issues of charity and ignorant about those of justice;
- societies that reward, not those who serve, but rather those who succeed and by any means necessary;
- belonging to a community, forced for the unjust winds sown by others, to reap a whirlwind of despair;
- families blamed for conditions they didn't create, by other social institutions which define what family is.
Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow when some other decisions are taken and other actions undertaken. There are at least three matters to be considered.
One of these is to understand what are Tipping Points, and where in our communities they exist. Tipping Points are the transnational institutions and local individuals whose presence anywhere cause matters to move foreward, backward or to stand still. It is a concept well understood and widely used for control and destabilization by agencies and agents inside and outside our communities. These agents operate, not so much for our benefit, as for theirs, and if necessary at our bitter expense.
One example of such an agency so engaged is Tommy Hillfiger, the designer clothing magnate. About fifteen years ago, his products were going nowhere and their stocks were nose-diving on the stock exchanges. The Tipping Point decided upon in our community were the youth generally known as "ragamuffins". These are those youth whose style of wearing their clothing, for example, hat brims turned around, or pants worn with waist lower than buttocks, become fashionable later, and source of abundant profits, too.
Hilfiger decided two things. One was to sponsor and produce the shows put on by rap artists and dancehall queens. In exchange, these youth had to wear, Hilfiger clothing, exclusively. The rest is history. Today, youth of all ethnicities wear these designer clothes - the result of clever thinking by this clothing industrialist.
What are the other Tipping Points in our community? One of these is the pulpit in Black churches. This is significant because it is probably the only one most nearly owned by Black communities. However, in many cases here ownership has been a liability, and what really counts is control. Often, these black-majority memberships are beholden to white institutions or headquarters.
As significant as these are, messages delivered most frequently about the afterlife oft do not adequately address the reality of everyday-life for too many of our youth. Empowerment provided by caring congregations must provide the backbone needed to face down peer pressures.
The second of the three matters to be considered therefore, is finding the ways of empowering our youth in this community Tipping Point, the church. Messages like, "Say No To Drugs" and "Jesus is the Answer" do not provide the type of stamina and backbone needed when a young person is faced -as each will inevitably be- with the types of pressures imposed on them by their peers and others. For too many youth, the real choice is either to engage in illegal and immoral acts, or experience ostracism and serious physical injury.
In this vein, when considering solutions, it has been observed that the youth best able to withstand these seismic pressures are those who experience not only religious-based activities, but also some that are community-based. In this, they are participants and observers of activities which empower them. Among these are such activities related to observing Kwanzaa and Black History Month.
If a person knows who they are, they will also know what to do.
There is, interestingly, much more of the spiritual in this than is seen at first. Community-based activities, and opportunities to get information denied them in the schools, offer our youth several positive options. Among these is an understanding of the role played by seeking justice for others, as a means of providing hope for oneself. One Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, reflecting on the relationship between worshipping God and seeking justice, in the first chapter of his writing, called on the Hebrews to seek justice and mercy for the disadvantaged; or as Jesus later called them, "the least of these, my brethren".
In addition, in the case of empowering youth with a sense of their ethnicity and heritage, many churches, while they might differ in textual doctrines, for example, some preaching water baptism and others sprinkling; or some observing Saturday as Sabbath and others Sunday, do not, however, differ in their symbolic messages. Their symbols or representations of goodness and light, for example, angels, God and Jesus are all relentlessly white and European.
Were it not for Satan oftimes portrayed as "coloured" and deeply tanned, black youth have almost no cultural reference points in the church's doctrine. The only ones available are as black as sin itself!
The fact is that there is overwhelming evidence that Jesus, the disciples and others were closer to being "coloured" than European. But, how many pastors, priests, rabbis and others would long survive, even with their black congregations if they were to correct these historical, religious facts?
The third matter to be considered is a grand and historic meeting called by representatives of, for and in our community. Such a meeting could occur on a long weekend as that on the first of July, each year. To be included would be the broadest possible representation - but all black. Our youth must begin to see themselves, and us as being as capable as any other community in solving problems and resolving issues. Representatives could come from gospel singers to dance-hall queens; from pastors to politicians; from police officers to activists; from subway drivers to bankers; from teachers to students _ et al.
We must seek funding from only within our own means. For sure, we pay taxes and deserve to receive grants and funds. However, the agencies, private and public-sector that control such funds provide them only where they see opportunity to exert control over our Tipping Points. In looking for solutions, we had better behave like a community without political representation at any level of government.
Coming out of such a meeting could be a decision to implement some policies over the following six months to a year. These policies could consider economic empowerment, with the use of co-ops in various fields. These policies could consider designing rituals appropriate for our young men to grow in their understanding and acceptance of such roles as parent and spouse. The policies could also look at the types of symbols which could empower our youth. Policies could find the ways to isolate the criminals in our midst who by their discreditable actions have become, "the Black arm of the Ku Klux Klan" in our midst. They must not be allowed to keep the initiative they now have, and thereby stopped from taking any more prisoners and lives from among us.
For youth whose bahaviour in public humiliates us all, they must understand that their attitude must be more attractive than their ostentatious hairstyles.
In conclusion, we as a people have come by long and winding ways to this sorry pass, not because we are inherently criminal, barbaric or lawless. We have come this way not because we lack wisdom. It is, however, useful to understand, spiritual as we are as a people, that while a merciful God also calls fools, even He does not keep them, forever and ever, Amen!