One of the staples of our society has been our ability to talk. However, when we are running our mouths, most times, we’re not listening. That’s why the event staged Monday at WIBB radio station by Al Tillman, a local community activist, the Rev. Tony Lowden who directs Stone Academy, and the station, was a good idea. We can talk all we want about what we think will work to combat the wave of violence that has recently captured many of our young people. We can come up with draconian measures -- from curfew enforcement to mass traffic checks to find probation violators and weapons. For a time, that might slow the criminal activity, but for a long-term solution we must open our ears.
So what were the takeaways from this broadcast? First, it featured people from the various neighborhoods talking about their issues rather than others pontificating about them. They were listening to messages from their own about the values of education, why it’s inaccurate to label any act of violence to gangs and what needs to happen to end what they called a “top down approach” to stopping the violence.
Lowden said the cuts in recreation programs are counterproductive. Through those programs, children’s attitudes are dealt with on the front end rather than the consequences of inaction on the back end. He has a point. Many in our community don’t want their tax dollars used to support recreation. They should think again.
Rapper Sonny Spoon explained that many of the teenagers listening didn’t understand the reality of going to prison. Spoon knows what he’s talking about. He spent six years incarcerated. “A lot of times, we make dumb decisions,” Spoon said, “because we don’t know there are repercussions.”
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Teenagers and others rarely understand the consequences of a spur-of-the moment decision. They don’t do the math. They should ask Shawn Kitchens or Travis Taylor, both 19. They were convicted of killing 17-year-old Rodrion Gary. Kitchens will be 49 years old when he’s eligible for parole, Taylor, 44. The “what if” question probably never entered the mind of 17-year-old Jermontae Artez Moss, accused of killing 43-year-old Jose Marin during a robbery. If he’s found guilty, the baby-faced-looking Moss’ life is over. Quite a realization for someone so young.
This conversation with the youth of our area with people who can speak their language and are respected by them must continue. Spoon said, “Talk has always been cheap,” but then he asks, “What are you doing every day to prevent a child from (turning to violence), or help a child every day?” The question has been asked. Are we prepared to hear the answer?
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board