Op/Ed By Gloria Winston Al-Sarag
Raekwon Manigault, Johnny Johnson and Jonah Barley. Wednesday night, Aug. 19, these three young men joined a list of names no one should celebrate. They became the latest victims of senseless violence in my community, in Rochester, NY. Their names will be added to a list on which no parent wants their child’s name. There are already far too many who have lost the lives for no acceptable reason in this community. Their names will never appear in a Hall of Fame, or on a Walk of Fame. They will never be college graduates, alumni, fraternity members, or support any athletic team, have solid professional careers, get married, have kids of their own, become grandparents, and die naturally, of old age. What has happened, instead, is that their lives, hopes and aspirations for the future were ended, when a person, or persons, cowardly opened fire into a crowd of people who were leaving a peaceful basketball game at the Boys and Girls Club. Seven were wounded, and three left this dimension because they were in the right place at the wrong time, believing they would arrive home safely when this horrific act of violence occurred.
Prayer does change things, but prayer alone will not change the unfortunate mindset, coupled with obvious mental health issues, which has been lurking inside far too many in this community. Outrage will hopefully turn into ACTION. Marches, press statements, vigils, and talks will hopefully become the beginning of a movement.
One which gets inside these homes, begins to identify what has gone horribly wrong in my community, and FIXES it. One of the most profound statements I have heard came from Rev. Lewis Stewart, when he said, “Black Lives Must Matter to Black People!!”
All the chanting, rhetoric, and sound bytes mean NOTHING if we, as a community, and as black people, do not begin to understand that the problem, as well as the solution, lies within us. It is NOT the job of any politician, policeman, teacher, minister, or anyone else to RAISE your child. All parents know their children. The village is a place where community members reside to ASSIST, SUPPORT and GUIDE your child when needed. Their job is to REINFORCE the foundation of love they should leave home with. And, IF a child is not receiving the nurturing, caring, or love it takes to help them succeed in the world, then we must take steps to REMOVE them from the environment which is providing them with a depraved sense of believing life is something to be destroyed, and not lived.
We have to stop putting band-aids on these malignant cancers, which we are allowing to exist. We, as a people, have to wake up at some point, or we will continue to bury our young. The ball is in our court. We have to stop spending money on programs which do no more than employ people. The problem is in people’s homes. We also have to get off the STREET CORNERS, perpetrating frauds about all the good we are doing, because we can MARCH. Get into people’s HOMES. There are efforts like Pathways to Peace, which has been having successes, and possibly impacting enough that we haven’t seen the amount of violence we could, but we have to be much more vigilant in solving the drug, substance abuse, and other abuse issues we’ve continued to look the other way about.
We must stop squandering resources, and put them to good use, in order to eradicate the behaviors that are responsible for the mental illness which has become more than apparent in our young people. We have to remain spiritually vigilant, but stop fooling ourselves into thinking it is ONLY prayer that is going to resolve these issues which have created more conversations than solutions. This nonsense, this evil, just needs to STOP in my community. As I have said, I grew up here. Fights, arguments and disagreements among our young people are not new. However, the MURDERING, and taking lives with no conscience, IS not something we can continue to accept, or only TALK about. We have to DO more than talk. If not, holding hands, hugging each other, and creating monuments on the street will become the norm.
We can no longer afford to weep, rally, and give speeches for 24 to 48 hours, and then act like nothing ever happened, when all is said and done. The community may find itself healed in a day or two, but the families will be in pain, and without their loved ones forever. We can no longer find it acceptable to protect those who have committed these senseless acts of violence, under the guise of not wanting to be a SNITCH. These are not MEN who’ve committed these crimes.
Unfortunately, some may have children, but they are still PUNKS, and COWARDS, to fire into a crowd of innocent people, unconcerned about bullets which have no names on them, and that death is FINAL. I believe strongly that they will eventually get what is coming to them, but, in the meantime, I would encourage those with the information to share it, before they commit another heinous act of violence.
We have home-grown TERRORISTS in our community, who have us living in fear. We have no longer been able to attend public concerts, picnics, or gatherings unconcerned about our safety. Now, we can no longer attend a peaceful basketball game without worrying about our safety. Something is wrong with that picture. The Boys and Girls Club, and city recreation centers, places which were once considered safe havens, have now been violated, and their reputations tainted.
For those of you who attended the tribute to David Gantt and Connie Mitchell a few years ago, you might recall that Roland Martin, who was the keynote speaker, gave us the answer, and dropped lots of wisdom on us that evening. Wisdom we seem to have collectively forgotten, or ignored. He said, in order to change our community, we need to go house to house, block by block, street by street, to assess what is going on with our families and young people. Not to sound redundant, but we MUST make sure our young people are LOVED, safe, and in a nurturing environment. We must make sure their environment is not responsible for the violent behaviors some are bringing into our streets. We must determine what has made some of them so angry. As Adam McFadden stated, those committing these violent crimes have no fear of the police, nor are they afraid to die.
They fear nothing, and that in itself is not normal behavior. Their education, and learning, starts at HOME. Their parents are their FIRST teachers.
My sincere condolences, and may God continue to heal and bless the families of Raekwon Manigault, Johnny Johnson and Jonah Barley!
So, what is it going to be? More of the same, or are we actually going to do something besides compete for media sound bites? It is up to US, and with the profound words of Hanif Abdul-wahid, we have choices. “Lead, follow or get out of the way!!”