Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Black activists look inward to solve youth violence

Enough with the hand-wringing. To reduce violence by teens, get involved in their lives.

Rev. Linda M. Words
That’s the message black Milwaukee activists are preaching after last month’s stunner of a shooting. Sharon Staples, hard-working mother of seven, with two more in her womb, lost her life allegedly to teens after she refused to give them her purse, and as one of her sons, 13, watched.

'Don't talk about, ‘Well, I don't know what we're going to do with them,’” Janette Herrera of the Campaign Against Violence demanded at a community meeting Saturday. “The reason you don't know is because you're not involved. Get involved."

The Rev. Nathaniel Stampley invited men to join him this Friday in his group’s fifth walk down streets in Milwaukee’s black community to engage with young people.

Audience at Coffee Makes You Black panel discussion
Strikingly, black activists are aiming their message of involvement squarely at black people, rather than the larger society, which the activists view as hostile. Milwaukee is among the most racist areas in the nation, Stampley said, citing exceptionally wide racial gaps in statistical measures of well-being here (such as unemployment and poverty rates). But, he added, that fact mustn’t stop black men from doing what they must do to reconnect with young people.

"We have got to do our own thing," said the Rev. Linda M. Words of Women Informing the Community. "We need to understand our own issues, what we're dealing with so we can come together and be more productive in our own community."
The Paradign Drumline put on a dazzling show at anti-violence picnic Sunday in Washington Park. In foreground are drummers Tony Hibbler, the director, and Josiah Young.

She added: "I want to say to all my brothers, ‘I don't care how much they beat you down …. Don't look to the left. Don't look to the right. Stay focused on your goal because we love you.’"

She said she once worked in corporate America and “their issues are not your issues.”

Phil Martin Jr. and Marna Windosa
The activists spoke at a panel discussion at Coffee Makes U Black coffee house, 2803 N. Teutonia Ave. The next day the Campaign Against Violence staged its annual picnic and rally at Washington Park.

Stampley, a former Milwaukee County supervisor, said that his group, Kingdom Builders of Milwaukee, was marching at 6 p.m. this Friday from his church, Heritage International Ministries, 1036 W. Atkinson Ave. and would likely walk down King Dr. Up to 25 men have participated in previous marches, Stampley said, and “many wonderful stories” have unfolded. They engaged young people playing basketball on two different playgrounds, he said. They got the young people to join in circles in which the men prayed for the boys and gave them bottles of water.

Janette Herrera
The problem with many teens is the lack of male participation in their lives, Stampley said, “and boys thinking they’re men just because of their size.” In Africa, which he has visited 24 times, fathers and uncles are involved in the lives of boys. But here, many boys lack such involvement and, often as a result, cultural values.

Continuing the theme of self-reliance, Tony Courtney, who emceed the panel discussion, and Ruben Hopkins, who chairs the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce, encouraged the audience to buy from black businesses and to start their own businesses.