Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A National Epidemic, Teens killing Teens



I wrote this post while wiping tears and yelling at my monitor. I watched a few minutes of the video of the senseless beating death of the Chicago teen, Derrion Albert, 16, who was an A student at his school. I could not get my mind around the fact that no one intervened. No one. I could not believe that no one yelled out or ran to get help. As I listened to "fonevideographer" give commentary while the life of a young man who had many possibilities slipped from his ravaged body, I literally got ill. I could not watch the entire video.

I thought of the parents whose son's death has been immortalized on You tube because he was doing what young people should be doing: going to school and making good grades. My heart goes out to them. The details and the “whys” of this vicious crime have been lost among the cries of outrage and righteous indignation. An epidemic of criminal activity committed by young males has terrorized our nation. Chicago has become known for being most dangerous city for school children. Going to school can get you killed! Chicago is not alone in grabbing headlines. Florida’s horrendous rape and beating of a mother and son in the notorious Dunbar Village case left many calling the perpetrators "savages". Mainstream media by-passed the story that was covered by the blog What About Our Daughters. After two years, the young men were finally sentenced last month.

Teens killing teens have made the news right here in Nashville. In the last two weeks, two teens have been involved in shootings. Reading through the month of September’s press releases issued by MNPD, teens made up a third of the crimes reported. The number of teens who were nabbed from truancy sweeps in a one month period was staggering. Not attending school during school hours is a recipe for disaster. As I counted the number of children who were arrested for not being in school in a one month period, I wondered what they were doing if they were not in school. Looking for trouble to find them? What can we, as a city, do to help end the violence and get help for young people who choose to pull a trigger or beat another to death?

It is going to take more than a few people. It is literally going to take a village…our city. Working together across race, gender, or religious affiliation for solutions and to implement changes must start sooner than later. This should be the top priority for everyone: parents, schools, and congregations. We cannot point to one particular situation or group to blame because the violence that has snared our youth does not care about situations or groups.

This week, everyone on radio, television and the blogosphere has talked about the condition of our youth. I heard one DJ complain that it was the music lyrics that our young people listen too and a TV pundit suggested it was the glorification of rappers and stars who behave badly that has influenced young people to act the way they do. That may be the case but we as parents must step up as well. Home training must become popular again. The images of Nene cursing her “friends” at every turn and the Kaynes of the world suggesting to us that we blame our foolishness on your mother’s death, only add to the discord that our country has embraced so proudly. We have glamorized ignorance. Add a Facebook poll asking about the assassination of the President and pics of every inch of one’s body swapped back and forth on the Internet like young people are trading marbles-these sorts of activites gives us an indication of the “condition” of our youth today. Often, our youth depict what we value and prioritize as a country or a people. Our national discord is fast becoming anarchy.

We must support community heroes who are trying to make a difference. Jeff O. Carr sitting on a roof for a week to raise $30,000 to keep our youth out of trouble is noble and commendable. At the same time, it is upsetting that it took a week for the community of color to donate $30,000 to sustain a theater that will nurture young people’s artistic talents and keep them safe. If that was a ball or gala to glorify egos, the money would have been raised within a few hours. Yep, I said it. In an Oasis board meeting on Tuesday, I could not help but mention the violence that we are witnessing among our youth across the country and in Nashville. We are not Somalia with teen pirates under the leadership of drug lords who kill for a dime and a pack of cigarettes. We are not Haiti, a country lacking leadership where nearly 75% of the people in the country are under the age of 19. We are not Mexico, Darfur, or the Congo. So why are we allowing abnormal gruesome behavior to become our expectation for our youth as if the are living in wild? I refuse to believe that our young cannot be helped even when I feel helpless at times or overwhelmed by the constant stream of ghastly news.

We must work together…we are Nashville. We can do better. I will close with a thank you. Jeff O. Carr thanks for caring about our youth. You are a leader with heart and soul and your love for young people is contagious. Your spirit need to be imitated. Quickly!

7 comments :

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work!! This is a very sad problem, I don't have words.... monica

factcheckme of femonade said...

hello...i also commented over at WM. i have to take issue with your using the terms "teens" and "youth" to refer to BOYS and MEN who are perpetrating almost all of ths violence. please, be more specific, because it calls attention to the very obvious problem that BOYS and MEN are having, with needing to victimize everyone around them. girls and women dont seem to have this problem. its a pet peeve of mine when i see male violence refered to in a gender-neutral way. it makes it seem as if we dont even know where to begin addressing it: clearly, masculinity and the social role of boys is the problem. we know that. we just want to ignore what we know.

Genmaspeaks said...

@factcheckme of femonade

"Teens killing Teens" is not gender specif because teen girls have become just as violent as teens boys. In my post, I mentioned young men to describe one case. As for my use of teens and youth, teens are between the ages of 13-19 according to many agencies that deal with young people. Youth refers to the condition of being young.
My response to you @Womanist Musing.

Sorry for the way I used the terms teens, youth..it was not about a specific gender because teens, male and females, are become increasingly becoming more violent. Please by all means write a post on your blog and use the terms that would not be a pet peeve of yours. I would love to read what you are doing to address the violence in YOUR community. Thanks!

Cheri Paris Edwards said...

Genma; thanks for the heartfelt post. I have worked with at-risk youth in the public school system for almost 15 years. During that time I've met and worked with many girls and boys involved in violent behavior. I've visited with them in Detention Centers, corresponded with them in jails and even went to the memorial services of one who was killed. What was missing in most of these young people's lives was the consistent influence of caring adults. Some were involved in the foster care system, some were living in single parent homes with Moms who were working long hours at low-paying jobs or in other types of transitions, and some were children of good parents and just were choosing to be out of control. What's interesting is no matter how tough I am on them, most have always been respectful to me, and seem to relish and want direction from adults--if they think you care. I hate to say this out-of-control behavior is not new. There is bedlam in many a school, that parents can't conceive. Young folks fighting, crowds catcalling, others misbehaving terribly, calling one another names, being sexually promiscuous, and on and on. But, as you mention, kids are living in a world we fashioned for them. They didn't get this way on their own. I hope people don't forget what they saw on the tape. It can be a call to action for those folks who decide to hear..

Cheri :-)

Professor Tracey said...

Gemma,

Great post! You capture the heart of the problem. It is so painful that we still struggle to overcome this kind of crime in our communities. It's destroying us.

Regina said...

I read a portion of your oost at Dallas South blog and had to come by and repost my comment here as well. As a parent I am saddened and appalled.

The condition of our youth is undeniably catastrophic and no one seems to know what to do. Home training is indeed lacking, but is not enough. Adults and youth need to be held immediately responsible for their actions. I also cried as I watch the senseless beating of 16 year old Derrion Albert and honors student who will not get the chance to realize his dreams. I was disgusted by the commentary and the sheer cowardice of the video taker. Why did he not drop the damn camera and intervene?? Or stop taping long enough to call 911?? The laisser faire attitude of people has gotten out of hand. No one cared enough to stop this senseless violence, what happened to “It Takes A Village To Raise A Child”? Sadly our villages have become nothing more than self serving, self gratifying social clubs. “All for self and self for all” should be the new millennium motto.
I am disgusted and ashamed of society…

Regina said...

By the way great blog!