In other news this week, we learned of a Brooklyn eighth grader who was left blind in one eye after bullies viciously beat him in school. That eighth grader, Kardin Ulysse, will be at National Action Network (NAN) this weekend to appeal for peace.
How did we get to this point? While the investigation into the Brown-Drake incident continues, we do know that several people were injured in the fracas as the glass flew. If these are the folks that our young people look up to, should we be surprised when they themselves start fighting, bullying and acting out in increasingly troubling ways? Violence only begets violence. And if we care at all about our future, our children’s future, we have to establish some sort of national intervention and a national movement.
On June 29th, NAN, in conjunction with Youth Move, will be convening a National Youth Summit in Atlanta. In the midst of the country’s highest gang membership increase in the past 40 years, and an unbelievable statistical jump in gun violence, our youth leaders and I will gather to address the concerns of their generation. NAN’s National Youth Director, 14-year-old Mary-Pat Hector, is the organizing force behind this event that begins at 9 a.m. at Grove Park Recreational Center. The summit will focus on three areas: relationship enhancement, peace building and methods to increase the “pay it forward” ideology. Rev. Al Sharpton, Erica Ford (“I Love My Life” Foundation), T.I. (a/k/a Clifford Harris of the T.I. Foundation) and others are scheduled to speak as well.
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Entertainers of all kinds tell the world that the violence in their movies, music, TV shows and elsewhere is just that: entertainment. But when our children, who admire these people beyond belief, see them fighting, throwing bottles or shooting each other in real life, what kind of example is that setting? And how can we tell them that violence should never be the answer when grown adults are acting a fool over nonsense? From all the reality TV shows where throwing punches is almost guaranteed, to shoot-outs in almost every major movie, kids today are literally growing up in a culture of violence.
There’s no denying that the epidemic of guns in our neighborhoods has reached a staggering level. In one weekend alone, the city of Chicago saw some 40 people shot. There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior. With parents now having to work two, three, or more jobs to make ends meet, many children are growing up with popular culture as their role model, and the areas they live in as their only environment. All of us — entertainers, parents, educators, everyone — need to take a serious pause and think about what we’re doing to save our children.
Please join us in Atlanta on the 29th. We face a national crisis; it’s time for national action.