12 November 2007

"We miss you, man!"

Many thanks to John for highlighting this news item from Cleveland (Emphasis mine)

Troy Smith does juvie

When Heisman winner and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Troy Smith stopped off for an inspirational speech at the county juvenile detention center last week, his odds of success weren't good. Row upon row of teenagers in blue jumpsuits slumped in cold metal chairs in the center's dismal gym, conducting silent warfare with their eyes. A guard noted that not all the kids could attend, since the center is overcrowded and authorities worry about gang problems.

But then something incredible happened. Smith attacked his audience with an unusual weapon: kindness.

"We miss you, man!" he began. "We need you guys to be future doctors. We need you guys to be future lawyers . . . We don't need you to be here your whole lives."

His voice rose and tears stained his cheeks as he defined Cleveland's deepest need: "We are starving for men."

The audience was hooked. Heads nodded, eyes were glued to the podium. "It's incredible to me how many beautiful young men we have in this building right now," Smith said. "I come here today as a humble servant to you guys."

One by one, he listened as the teenagers stood up to introduce themselves and ask polite questions. There were no jokes, no snide remarks. When Smith asked for their help in defending his hometown, most hands rose in the air.

"My long-term goal is making Cleveland a better place," he told them. "You can call me a hypocrite if it doesn't happen, but I guarantee you it will."

!Bravo Troy Smith! A winner on the field and off.

I am very struck and moved by this report. How often have we thought of dealing with the problems of (urban) crime and gang activity in this way? That we NEED the young black men who are getting 'caught up in The Game' and then ground into pulp by the legal system. So often young black men are seen as the enemy, worthless, dangerous, 'scary,' lost. These messages get internalized and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: You already think I'm a Thug, so then, I'll be Super Thug!

What if we told these young men (and women) that they were beautiful? That there was no need for them to 'be hard' to be men? That we as neighbors, a community, a nation really need them out on the streets, taking care of themselves and each other and the rest of us? What would happen if more young people were told early and often that they were intelligent, capable, and wanted, that they were reminded that they were loved? What if, to paraphrase this Essex Hemphill poem, we organized to save our own lives? Are we 'man enough' to do that?

by Essex Hemphill

I want to start
an organization
to save my life.
If Whales, snails,
dogs, cats,
Chrysler, and Nixon
can be saved,
the lives of Black men
are priceless
and can be saved.
We should be able
to save each other.
I don't want to wait
for the Heritage Foundation
to release a study
stating Black men
are almost extinct.
i don't want to be
the living dead
pacified with drugs
and sex.

If a human chain
can be formed
around missile sites,
then surley Black men
can form human chains
around Anacostia, Harlem,
South Africa, Wall Street,
Hollywood, each other.

If we have to take tomorrow
with our blood are we ready?
Do our S curls,
dreadlocks, and Phillies
make us any more ready
than a bush or conkaline?
I'm not concerned
about the attire of a soldier.
All I want to know
for my own protection
is are we capable
of whatever,


Saeed said...

Wow. I am truly inspired. A great report and a great poem.

Peter said...

Wow. Great story. I was moved by this.

John K said...

Reggie, I'm glad you highlighted this! I think it's sooooooo important!

BronzeBuckaroo said...

Much needed, Mr. H.

Christopher Hennessy said...

Great poem to post.

Thanks for the recent comment!

Do you still want to write up something reacting to Major Jackson's APR article? No rush, just wanted to let you know would still love something!

WhozHe said...

I really liked this story, for many reasons.

Rethabile said...

Very good.