When summer arrives in a relatively few days, the joy of the season will be tempered with concern about what the hot weather and recess from school will bring. For many neighborhoods, it will mean loss of life and police crackdowns bringing anything but joy.
Why should summer be a time of sorrow? Are there no lessons from the past that can be employed to save the lives of Black youth and to ease the troubled minds of parents and young people? In many communities across the country, activists, residents and young people are hard at work planning activities and programs to combat the problem of violence and to provide an alternative to young people.
All of these programs, whether sponsored by a church, a block club, a police district, a mosque or state or local government will need support. What are you willing to do to make the summer safer? Are you willing to donate time and money? Are you willing to sponsor an event? Are you willing to take responsibility for your own children and for a single child that is not yours? Are you willing to demand that public money be invested in youth? Are you willing to unite with others to create programs that will benefit young people?
Youth advocates and young people say the violence that escalates during the summer is connected with several things, including more unstructured time for young people and young people spending more time on the street. It would stand to reason that well-thought out, structured and well-staffed programs would cut into those factors and lessen the likelihood of violent incidents.
While police departments are becoming more and more well-armed, budgets for youth programs and summer jobs are decreasing. Some urban peace groups have seen funds for outreach and on-the-street conflict mediation cut. The economy has non-profits struggling and in need of support. Giving more support and heavier weapons to law enforcement, while cutting resources that go to young people says something about society. It also says something about the Black community, something bad, if we allow such budget decisions to be made without input and without political leaders paying a price for denying our children the benefit of our tax dollars.
Beyond tax dollars siphoned off by government, there is a need for us to decide to share and sacrifice some of the dollars that we have for the collective benefit of our children. We must unite and do something for our youth–we can’t wait for someone else to bring opportunity and peace to the places where we live. An organized and united community can find internal resources and exert pressure for more external resources. The need for dollars can be sharply offset by goods and services that could come from creative minds and committed volunteers. But if we do nothing, our children will get nothing.
It’s up to us to act and to act now to make this summer different, in a positive way, for our children. We must get involved.