That was the title of my 1970 high school graduation speech forty five years ago. It was just five years past the 1965 Watts Rebellion. I experienced the worst urban rebellion in our history when I was thirteen. It does not take much to recall the sights, sounds, and high energy in the air. Night skies turned blazing colors of oranges, reds, and yellows– the colors of hot anger billowing up into the dark.
As I watched the burning of Baltimore, the imperative is the same: today’s youth is our best promise of a future. How will we step up as adults stepped up in 1965 and helped us to organize to improve our community?
Our youth need hope. They need to dream with courage and faith. All is not lost. All is not lost when caring adults step up to help, when agencies bring in jobs and activities. The future of our youth has been compromised. Yet, all is not lost.
In 1965, I wondered if all was lost after six days of burning and destruction in Watts. James Baldwin wrote about The Fire Next Time. Are we there yet?
Tonight I had the honor of speaking to the education community of the W.E.B. DuBois Charter Schools Consortium in Memphis, Tennessee. Headed by Director Ruby Payne, this is a cohort of parents, grandparents, school leaders, and community members with a single focus like a laser: prepare our children for the future. This community gets it right. They have found the secret sauce to create a collaborative force to build a hedge around students who could have a different future if these adults had not steeped up to the plate.
I spoke about the Effective Use of Self: Focusing on the 4 Cs of Compassion. Our students, no matter where they live and no matter the socio-economic make-up of the neighborhoods, are all at risk to an uncertain future. These adults are building citizens–young people who know how live and thrive in a civil society.
They are doing it the old school way: not security guards at the entrance but grandparents. These grandparents, my good friend Lennell Terrell being one of them, meet the students at the door and ensure they are appropriately dressed in full uniforms. Those out of compliance are soon in compliance after being sent home enough times. Did parents get angry? Of course, they did. It was an inconvenience for Tyrone or Tonya to come back home for socks or a belt. They have zero tolerance for sagging pants and skirts too short.
They have reached back into the wisdom of the community and given then significant roles to play because they get it: it takes a village to raise a child.
I look forward to more interaction with the people in Memphis. I am energized by positivity and the W.E.B. DuBois Charter School Consortium has got it going on! Now this should be Breaking News, CNN.