Isaiah 11:6D (“and the little ones shall lead them“)… Congratulations to the courageous high school students from Florida and around the world who organized millions to make their voices heard on the issue of violence invading our society and particularly our schools. We are thankful for the parents and adult allies who encouraged, empowered and supported this next generation of leaders. May they remain fearless.
However as encouraged as I am with this weekends activities it is still reactionary. Yes I said reactionary! Americans are more prone to react to crisis rather than strategically address the root problem that we created and continue to perpetuate. Violence in America is an adult based creation and that includes our fantasy with weapons of all calibers (which I will address in another blog).
Violence is a public health crisis in America! We can neither march, enforce, legislate or negotiate our way out of this problem. If you didn’t know it we love violence! The news editors would say if it doesn’t bleed it won’t lead. And leading it does, driving the Nielsen ratings higher and higher creating an audience competition for viewers. Here is an interesting thought for some of my readers, violence wasn’t an issue in America until it came to the front door of suburban schools. We’ve been screaming for years stop the violence. In the urban culture our music, entertainment, news and schools have promoted violence in such a manner that it is now just a way of life.
As a former urban youth pastor, I noticed years ago the difference between the prayers of suburban and urban students. I can honestly say that in over twenty-five years, I probably have never heard an urban student not pray for protection and safety for themselves and their families as they move in and around the cities. While the suburban kids were praying for favor, wisdom in relationship and career direction and ability to pass an exam. Urban kids were traumatized “will I live tomorrow” and will I make it home safe”. I will never forget my first encounter with young man whose name was David who did not believe he would live to see the age of 18. During that period of time I noticed a trend that we are seeing twenty-five plus years later, students who do not believe they will live to reach the age of 21. The trauma of violence is real and it is a public health crisis.
In 2009 we launched a student led health initiative in collaboration with a few local youth development agencies, the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, Henry Ford Health Systems and the State of Michigan’s then Surgeon General Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom. The program was entitled T.E.A.C.H. (Teens, Educating and Advocating for Community Health) for IMPACT. Over time our students sought to address youth health disparities in youth friendly language and cultural relevant methods. After one year, the students realize and recommended to us that violence be added as a health disparity and we would address it as a public health crisis. (https://youtu.be/mLWyELxsNqw)
At the time I was actively serving students residents in the Brightmoor community. So we developed a concept paper that would provide for every student K-12 and their parents receiving Conflict Resolution Training. We sought to build a collaboration with experts in the Martin Luther King, Jr Non Violence Training. Outside of Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom who encouraged the students to take our ideas to the highest levels, these kids were laughed at and dehumanized by funders and members of the Detroit City Council.
The idea was in my opinion simple and cost effective but the community impact had the potential of transforming the lives of thousands of students, decrease the number of juvenile offenders from Brightmoor and create a national model. Here’s the Readers Digest version (old folks language): The first week of school in the fall would be completely devoted to addressing violence in every school and in every classroom. We would secure volunteers college students from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University who would receive facilitation training from the King Center in Atlanta. Students would develop a plethora of activities in addition to the classroom lessons that highlight best methods for resolving conflicts in school, home and community. The activities would include everything from student school-based poster campaigns to in-school hip-hop concerts and the implementation of the T.E.A.C.H.for IMPACT clubs in every school empowering students to be spokespersons and continue the campaign long after the first week of school.
As I sit and think about the ideas of Nick, Veronica, Kendall, Darius, Stormy, Chris, Angelo, Brandon, Kelly, Alexis, Cassie, Carman, Taylor, Chelsey, Raymond, Napolean and others I am still in awe. (1 Timothy 4:12). But wait a minute, TEACH for IMPACT is still going and the concept paper can be resurrected now the question is who is willing (Isaiah 6:8).
Brothers and sisters we don’t have to be reactionaries. We are smart enough to strategize and create transformational change in our schools and community. I’m just saying… If you’re interested in being a revolutionary let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org because 2018 is the year of transformation. I’m just saying…. (Philippians 4:13)