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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Baltimore: a tale of two different realities

http://exm.nr/m4oikR via @examinercom
The headlines over the last few weeks tell a tale of two different realities for children, particularly Black children, in Baltimore and across the nation.  One headline from The Baltimore Sun as noted on May 15, 2011 shares the heart-warming news of Ty Hobson Powell, a 15-year old prodigy who is the youngest graduate of the University of Baltimore.  While another headline from The Baltimore Sun shares the tragic death of 12-year old, Shawn Johnson - one of four male teens shot in East Baltimore last week by unknown assailants.  A May 25, 2011 article in The Baltimore Sun tells the story of Kearra Carter, a City College graduate who is the first in her immediate family to graduate from the college (Johns Hopkins University) where her mother has worked as a waitress for the past seventeen years. While a May 4, 2011 article from the same newspaper confirmed what many had feared regarding the disappearance of Phylicia Barnes, the 16-year old was, indeed, murdered while visiting older siblings in Baltimore.  
These news headlines offer startling insight regarding Baltimore - a city of paradoxes where one family rejoices while another mourns.    One adult exposes a young person in her care to a prestigious college campus while another adult introduces a young person in her care to illegal drugs and underage drinking.   One young person's tomorrow is filled with hope while another young person's tomorrow is snatched away.  By all accounts Ty, Shawn, Kearra and Phylicia were described in television and newspaper reports as exceptionally bright young people.  Their lives - for the most part - were full of love and filled with responsible adults who made the effort to introduce these young people to opportunities that would enrich their lives.   Yet, two of these four young lives were shattered by adults - the two men who witnesses say opened fire on Shawn and his friends as well as the adults who failed to protect Phylicia.  As is most often the case, the lives of young people in Baltimore are drastically impacted by the decisions (good or bad) of the adults in their lives.
How do we stop the senseless murder of another young person in Baltimore?   How do we ensure that young people in this city are afforded the proper services, supports and opportunities to thrive?  How do we surround children in Baltimore with healthy, caring and responsible adults?   We raise the investment and push by the City and State to fund positive youth development programs (i.e. The Urban Leadership Institute, The Algebra Project) while providing equal funding to adult training and professional development programs that target - parents, older siblings, grandparents, foster parents, teachers, neighbors, coaches, police officers, ex-offenders, church members, etc.   We invest in neighborhood development programs that respect the autonomy of local residents while offering opportunities for them to gain competencies that help them build support networks and grow neighborhood accountability.   We stop the incessant talking and showing up only to be seen at protests or on schedule for the next election.  We stand watch on the corners as part of neighborhood patrols even when the cameras aren't rolling.  We volunteer year-round at the local youth club to mentor a young person.   We take the time to volunteer weekly at a local NA meeting to sponsor an adult working to overcome substance abuse.   We decide as Kimberly Armstrong - a mother who lost her 16-year old son to the violent streets of Baltimore in 2004 - that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, and we take strategic action to create a more positive reality for children in Baltimore!

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