WHATEVER IT TAKES: Black Males in the Cross Fire-Again!
By Edward Chisolm (May 6, 2009)
The African-American Male (AMA) Group presented a dynamic presentation at last week’s Town Hall meeting at the Savannah Civic Center. They provided us with convincing status as to disproportionate numbers of black males being suspended out-of-school in our school district. According to their 3-year study, the main reason black males are being suspended is not because of drugs, not because of guns, not because of other violent episodes, but because of uniform violations. Mayor Otis Johnson followed that presentation with his own report of what he called “Breaking the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline: Making the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy a Lie.” The mantra of Mayor Johnson’s talk was “if we keep on doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we have.”
As for the educational well-being of black males in the school system, the reality is not acceptable. Also, according to the Mayor’s report, there are 55,450 state prison inmates between ages of 16-30; 68% black and 94% male. The yearly cost at a closed security prison is $18,332 per year; at a medium security prison it is $14,476 per year. This makes an average cost of $16,404 per year. The Mayor compared the prison cost to the tuition cost of attending 3 semesters at either Armstrong Atlantic University or Savannah State University, which amounts to $4,788 and $5,589 respectively. Yeah, the Mayor is right. It’s time for a change. But what change?
On last Thursday at the Early Childhood Symposium, Mr. Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York said, “Whatever it takes.” In order to make the self-fulfilling prophesy a lie, we have to first adopt a whatever it takes mentality to the problem. Mr. Canada stated that if we are not willing to “fight” for our children, then don’t even bother. The AMA is seemingly ready to fight. The Mayor is seemingly ready to fight. What about you? Are you ready to fight for the right of our children to receive a first-class education? After all, our Superintendent said ,”All means all.” I say we take him at his word.
But words are not going to be enough, neither is playing the blame game. I was happy when former State Senator Regina Thomas stated that it wasn’t about these kids coming from ‘single parent homes.” That’s not the only issue, if it’s an issue at all. The “singleness of these homes is secondary to the realization that economic and financial wherewithal compromise good parenting sometimes. We know the job we need to do at the community level. I agree that we don’t need to send our children into an educational environment unprepared to learn, undisciplined, and unwilling to respect authority. But we should also not stand by and let public policy get in the way of “all meaning all” as it relates to academic achievement, particularly as it relates to African-American males.
The school system must be supported both by our tax dollars as well as by our intellect. I praise the AMA for having the intestinal fortitude to challenge the system. We need more of that. The school system is not all bad, but it isn’t all good either. We clearly have to take a serious look at the suspension policy and other systemic barriers. If we believe that children, our children, are being pushed out of the educational mainstream into the prison pipeline, then any people worth their name will not stand by and let that happen.
That is not to say that every person that’s behind bars need not be there. For sure, those who break the law need to be punished. No argument there. We can’t afford to live in a society beset with lawbreakers. We must take responsibility for our children and how they are raised. We must also hold all the systems accountable for how they deal (or not deal) with those same children. Otherwise, the pipeline is not a pipe-dream and the prophecy will come true. I am not sure if we even know what, “whatever it takes” means. And even if we did, are we sure we are willing to go there.
Whatever means whatever! All I know for sure is there was a home going service at my church over the weekend. It was for a 21 year old brother who was shot and killed in the middle of the night by another young black male. The point is we need to do whatever it takes to try and reach our children. We have to work on all fronts at the same time. We can’t take any days off until the war is won.
War is hell. Our only option at this point is we either need to be in battle or preparing for battle. No days off. Whatever means whatever! The opposite of a lie is the truth. The truth is not relative, it’s absolute. And we must be absolutely sure we want to do this. We have to be truthful of what the real challenges are and what we are willing to do about them. At this point, we either need to “piss or get off the pot.” Whatever means whatever!
I talked about black males, but we know it goes beyond our males to include our young girls as well. They are in the pipeline, too. Mayor Johnson issued a challenge to YFA and Step Up—to be at the forefront of the war. I, for one, accept the challenge. I have a few of my own that I will reveal in short order. But for now let’s make it our business as a black community to make the self-fulfilling prophecy, indeed, a lie. Because all does means all, and whatever means whatever!
Black Love, Black Peace & Black Power!!!