As a child, my world was filled with drama, sadness and despair. The backdrop to my life involved daily doses of stolen car chases, drug dealing, shootings, poverty and all the other negatives associated with life in the ghetto. Children mimic the behavior of those in their environment. It is not only the parent's responsibility to protect children, but it is the communities' responsibility to set good examples.
Constant negativity can have a lasting effect on children. As a result many children become statistics and never make it to adulthood. I have lost countless friends to the streets. I've witnessed crackheads rob, kill and sell their bodies just to get their daily fix. I have observed young girls, even as young as 11 have babies. I saw fat young healthy women dwindle away to nothing and then die from contacting HIV. Nothing surprises me, I have seen it all.
I often wondered if I would become one of those statistics. I became destructive - there was so much anger inside of me. I struck out at people. I became the "B" word - a bully. I'd kick somebody's butt just for looking. Fortunately, my 8th grade teacher saw my potential and managed to penetrate my hard exterior. She took a liking to me, but she used tough love. After numerous suspensions, I returned to school only to get into yet another fight. She scolded me. She literally told me I wasn't "worth shit" and that I was going to end up with my "pretty little face all cut up", in jail or even worst the "morgue". She told me I was as dumb as a "brass ass monkey" among other things. I hated her. Who was this heffa to call me names? The brass ass monkey thing is what really did it for me. I was going to slash her tires later on that afternoon, that would teach her a lesson. But instead, I went home and secretly cried about it. The next day, she challenged me. She said, "Well if you ain't dumb then I dare you to read this book". It was the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Was this bitch crazy? The book was over 400 pages long. How did she expect me to read all of that? Deep down instead I knew I wasn't dumb, plus something had to give. What would it hurt if I read that dumb ole book? I'd have her off my back and I could get back to kicking ass.
That book changed my life! Instead of hanging in the streets, I took up hanging at the library, museums and even college lobbies. I learned about other walks of life and that there was something beyond the negatives I saw. I escaped ghetto craziness by burying my head in the books. Slowly, I started to take accountability for my actions. I no longer used my fist to solve problems. I started to fight for causes by becoming deeply involved with community events. Fortunately for me, my teacher cared enough and was willing to take note of my behavior. She didn't sit idly, she took action...and "by any means necessary." This allowed me to see the negativity for what it was worth. I refused to get caught up in drugs, sexual promiscuity and other criminal behavior.
We need more role models like this. Grant it, as parents, we can not protect our children from every single atrocity. In fact, we want them to learn about both the good and the bad. This can not be done alone, society is just as responsible. Remember, children mimic what they see and hear. They need good role models to learn from. Will you be that role model or will our children become statistics?