A good friend of mine always says to me that the definition of insanity is the act of repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different result. Even if this is not the Merriam-Webster’s definition, it best explains my plight of saving black boys.
I’m sure by now we have all witnessed via WorldStar or YouTube the unfortunate and untimely death of Chicago honor student Derrion Albert. The footage sickened me and nearly brought me to tears. When viewing the video my mind put other faces from my childhood in place of the ones I was seeing. I saw Woo Dog and Spanky, both of whom were high school friends and died on Atlanta’s concrete corners, bullet riddled within a year of one another.
I saw Derrion as “Stinky” a small and loved kid who went to another high school and was stomped to death by an older student for speaking to his girlfriend. I saw Ronnie who is now a public school educator, but had it not been for a gunshot to the knee during a fight with students from a rival high school, who would (not could) have been a professional athlete. Even now as adults, when I see him on occasion I still see an 18-year-old on crutches crushed at the thought of his dream being lost because of an interschool rivalry. A rivalry between Frederick Douglass High and Benjamin E. Mays High nonetheless— cold and brutal irony that in the name of a black emancipator and educator, we black boys waged war in the street against one another. Why did we fight, for what? Truthfully, I still don’t know.
I saw over 20 ghosts in that footage. 20 black boys from my past that met a brutal and untimely demise in the 90’s. 20 deaths in the name of school rivalry, starter jackets, Filas, Air Jordans, crack disputes, gangs, neighborhood cliques, but mostly bullshit based on some old code of ethics “don’t let no nigga disrespect you”. 20 were just the victims I knew. I currently have two dear friends and five associates who will spend the remainder of their natural lives in GA prisons, each for murder. I have others that are now, after 10, 12 and 15 year sentences, just coming home. I’m sorry if I’m going too long on the intro as M. Garland let me know I have a habit of doing, but I’m sad man. I’m tearing as I write this actually because I have lived this existence. I know these boys: Derrion (God bless the dead), Silvonus, Eric and both Eugenes.
My friends were victims and perpetrators. My friends were honor students and rouges. My friends, like all those black boys on that video had been failed by the community, the village. If it indeed takes a village to raise a child, it’s time we admit our entire village is broken. We are a shell of the people we once were. A wicked combination of self doubt, self pity and material self interest that has infested our village like a virus.
Like any virus, it attacks the most vulnerable, the young and the weak. Black youth have suffered from this plague of senseless violence too long. We all experience it, though not always fatal. However when I speak to friends of other races who have never been in a fight, or felt pressure to clique up because of fear, or do not own a gun, or know someone who died young due to violence, or have friends in prison since they were kids, I know this is an outbreak in my village it never affected them. I know this diseased existence is not normal and it’s not right. We are 30, our teens are enduring the exact same suffering we did 10 and 15 short years ago and we have failed. The village has failed.
Since the fires and riots of the 60s—when two of our best were assassinated—and the 70s—when black suffering and criminal culture became a cash cow for Hollywood (Blaxploitation)—our village has become the perfect petri dish for the virus of violence to grow. Add crack based alternative economy that employs the young, add the easy access to guns and lack of job opportunity in the 80’s, minus fathers due to divorce, teen pregnancy, unfair prison sentences, deaths and simple neglect for their children, and you have the recipe for 25 years of black male teen violence in the village.
While this happens, black mothers become the face of the new addict in the crack epidemic and they are demonized in the 90s (Clinton era) as welfare cheats and promiscuous vixens that only seek to have sex and breed. Welfare to work takes mamas out of kids’lives during wake hours leaving the young to explore any vice imaginable. Public schools and classes become lager and the quality of teaching and education takes a sharp turn for the worst.
The Church once a haven for self-organization becomes “Mega” and changes its direction to “Blessing Based;” meaning to Jesus, money matters most. Even parents that are physically present are encouraged to value valuables. This presence of things and absence of elders opens the doorway for the disease of violence to infect once hopeful suburban villages like Clayton Co. near Atlanta and Decatur to the east, homes to Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long’s Churches.
I wanna bring this post on home ya’ll but I’m scattered and rambling because I’m sad. I’m angry at myself. I am angry at the village, I mean the entire village. Dozens of children have died this year in Chicago, and we did nothing. Atlanta, D.C, Detroit, Newark, Miami, N.O., Baton Rouge, Lil Rock, Oakland, thousands are dead and we did and do nothing! We watch the victims and families on local news, CNN and FOX and watch the offenders on 48hrs and American Gangster and Gangland and still we do nothing!
We feel a tinge of sadness for the children that die. We feel bone deep anguish and hurt for those black mamas. We look and feel lucky not to live “there.” We thank God our kid are ok and we resume life in this broken model of a village. We do nothing more! By doing nothing more we keep KILLING OUR CHILDREN!?!?!
By blaming rappers, like adults did when we listened to real violent rap like Esham, Geto Boys, Dayton Fam, N.W.A., The Hard Boys, and Spice One, we are KILLING OUR CHILDREN. We knew at 15 that it took some PE, Ice Cube, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Scarface, 2Pac, Tribe, Hiero and De La to balance our self. We knew at 15 how important self knowledge and growth were and we sought it. So why at 25, 35, 45 do we act as though we are still children (making it rain and big toys) or act as though we never were (forgetting the lessons we learned in our own turbulent teens) and asking for the blood of other children in retribution? Any black adult that condones a child being tried as an adult in these United States is a sociopath themselves. If you are from a major metro city and reared in the 80s or 90s chances are you have engaged in at least one act that could have put u in similar circumstances, had you been caught. I guess through these tears and these words what I’m trying to convey is Derrion, I’m sorry. I apologize, this is MY fault. Silvonus, Erick, Eugene R and Eugene B, I’m sorry we let you young brothers down. We shoulda known with Yummy it was time to take control of things and guide you all better, but we failed you. We shoulda known with Fort and Hoover. We did know actually, and we just turned our heads and let thousand before you kill and die. It’s my fault I knew this was waiting for you lil homies and I did what I could (made some rap records about revolutionary realness) but that ain’t enough. In my post drug dealer, pre-rap year, I mentored and organized with six young men. They called themselves Checking Game. They believed that black men, because of the suffering and murder and violence they had endured and perpetuated, are uniquely qualified to be “champions of justice.” One’s name was E.J., who in spite of a threat on his life testified against a criminal. He went on to become a soldier and later was stabbed and hurt very badly. He was discharged, had to fight to get his general discharge upgraded to an Honorable one and he is attempting to become a cop. I am encouraging that attempt. We need more E.J.s on the APD. He and all five Boys were from Boat Rock, one of Atl’s most notorious housing projects. They made it out, they made it out because of me; we the village were proactive in their life and that allowed them to save themselves. By not being involved we have murdered our children.
Adults should be on every corner in the hood standing defiant and fearless. If our men are unemployed, we need you on that corner at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. bruh. If our women tithe another dollar they must require churches to allow the men of the community to have full access to the churches facilities to oversee after school and gym programs. Frats and sororities must establish intense high school campaigns to counter balance kids’ interest in gangs. Gangs must evolve or go. If gangs cannot organize, educate and restructure membership into a true enterprise that is self regulated and legislated like the Shiners or Masons or other social clubs, they must cease to exist. The black ministers, Rabbis, Imam’s Scholars and civic leaders 25 to 45 must establish civic authority and parents and children must be required to attend a non religious meeting around community growth once a week. Kids should also be required to attend and be taught to organize independent of the parents. This is not all the answers to how to fix our village and end the murder and incarceration of our young but it’s all I can get out through the tears honestly. Please, let’s not argue today I don’t have the energy honestly. Let’s just post solutions that we know have worked in the past or will work. Some examples are: Cuba’s Each One Teach One literacy campaign, the Panther Breakfast Program, The South African Truth and reconciliation committees that allowed victimizers to ask the forgiveness from the person or persons family, the injured or killed, and the Brazilian Youth Movement that fought to get the rights of Brazilian street kids recognized, at a time when the police were killing them like dogs.
I know this post was long. Thank you for reading and thank you for asking me to write about it. I would have just buried it deep in me and lived with the tears had Mutada Mullah/ Atari not asked me to blog about it. So there it is, my raw feelings on a post. I hope that, OG Matt Herbs, Shawty J, Kato, Smel, EMcdl, These Post R Racist, Don Rico, Trondadon and all ya’ll have some uplifting solutions cause the village needs them. Andrew Young (google him) said to me two weeks ago that Benjamin E. Mays was addressing a room of black students and said “it is by no fault of your own that you are 347 years behind. All I ask is can you catch up in 25 years.
We are only 40 years into this cycle of violence and we can end it in 10. 25 to 45 year-olds have lived through this like any survivor of a virus. The antidote is in us. We the hip-hop generation must save ourselves with the knowledge we gained by surviving this condition. We must or we lose another generation to the curable disease of violence that’s killing our village’s children. We must rewrite our history of violence now or the death of Derrion, and those other boys, who by taking his life have destroyed their own, are all in vain. The tears of Derrion’s mother and the mothers of the accused will be a repeated event if we do not reclaim our village and end this violence. Be encouraged (key word COURAGE). It’s BIGGA.
Catch me on Twitter @Killer_Mike. I would love to continue this convo. GTRG…BBB