It saddens me to read that our children in Portsmouth are being murdered and getting locked up. It saddens me even more to see people exploiting our children for self-gain. There are people who are literally only showing up when our children are being murdered, opposed to addressing the reasons that actually lead to the murders. You have to stop crime before it happens, not when it happens. If a person gets killed today, that problem did not start today. It started a long time ago. What did we do yesterday to prevent crime from happening today? What are we doing now that can give these children positive avenues to put them on a path to become a better adult and to even get a good job?
Look, we can bring all of the jobs in the world to these children, but if we are not making sure they are getting the training, then what is the job going to do? Where do you get the training? You get the training from school. If these children are not going to school, then how are they going to get the training? The next question is why aren’t they going to school, or if they are going to school, why aren’t they getting the training? From my experience, it is because of circumstances that they grow up in. Let’s be clear, circumstances at home do not necessarily mean the parents/guardians are bad. Truthfully, we have some good parents who have children that we consider bad. Circumstances at home could mean environment, lack of opportunity, lack of affection, lack of resources and more.
For those of you who know nothing about me, I am from what most people affectionately call “the hood”. I do not hide from that, and I never will. I embrace it because it made me the man that I am today. Now, I do not claim to be some expert on the people in “the hood”; however, I do know a little about the place I lived for over twenty years. This means that I have experience. I know about the lack of opportunities and what that can do to your life. It is easy for me to understand why a group of people feel that their only way out is to start an illegal but profitable business. I understand why children look up to a guy who you may consider bad, but because that was the only role model they had, it turned them into a product of their environment. Most importantly, I understand how it feels to put your trust in a system that has failed you so many times before, and because of that, you lose trust.
Now I live in a good neighborhood, so my circumstances are a lot better. I pray that my life will continue to go the way it is going and my children will never have to grow up the way I did. I am far removed from the ills and problems I once lived in as a child; however, I never forget about them. Given the fact that I never forget about those circumstances, I try my hardest to provide realistic opportunities for those children so that they can be positive adults. These children don’t need a job, they need some love, and they need something to do! As part of a successful team that runs an active non-profit for children and a youth services coordinator by profession, I have never heard from the children or parents that jobs will stop these problems. Furthermore, by being a product of this environment, I have never thought that if I had a job, my lack of opportunities, lack of resources, lack of places to go, lack of recreational activities, etc., would change because of it. Sure, it’s a component; however, it’s much more that we have to do to stop these circumstances that exist. Last I checked, rich people are locked up as well. A great philosopher out of Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is located in Brooklyn, by the name of the Notorious B.I.G. once spoke to me in a song that stated, “It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.”
We have to do more than provide these children with jobs: we have to provide these children with an opportunity, places to go to be a kid, modern and safe recreational activities, understanding, and most importantly, LOVE. Do they need jobs? Yes, but they also need to go to school to get the resources to get these jobs. We need to make sure that we change the circumstances that these children face on a regular basis that make that lead them to make bad decisions. I mentioned earlier that when a person gets murdered, that problem didn’t start that day. You have to stop crime before it happens, not when it happens. What did we do yesterday to prevent crime from happening today?
(This editorial originated as a Facebook posting by De’Andre Barnes and is reproduced here with the author’s permission, for which we are grateful.)