Thoughts on school violence and mentoring

As I thought about my Randall Pinkett post, I thought about the aspect of Black people setting themselves up so that we don’t have to wait to get picked by those currently in power. I compared Randall to Paul Robeson and I felt really excited. And then I thought about how in Detroit there were shootings at two separate high schools within the same week. I have been into schools where there are metal detectors and I wonder how kids are supposed to hold onto their dreams when they are afraid to go to school?

I am reminded of a conference panel I sat on with Superspade Kyle Warfield that was chaired by Garlin Gilchrist II. The title of the panel was from “From Maleness to Manhood.” I can’t recant all of the details but I do remember the discussion spiraling into trying to figure out how to stop violence in the schools so young people can actually think about going to college or what business they want to start up. I forget his name right now, but one young man started to cry because in essence, he was frustrated because he didn’t feel safe going to school and he desperately wanted to just be a student. It broke my heart. I have counseled so many middle and high school students on the importance of going to college but how can you think about college when you don’t want to go to school to save your life?

Of course, many of us who are in college or working have tutored and mentored in various community service organizations which I think should continue. But something structural at the macro and micro level must give. Going back to the panel, an elderly Black man stood up and chided a father who complained that his child was not safe walking to school. The older man exploded (and I am paraphrasing), “If he isn’t safe, then you walk him to school yourself! And while you’re at it, take the other kids with you!” I never forgot this statement because I thought about how even in my own mentoring; I have felt that there were some kids whose lifestyles were just too rough for me to make an effective impact. However, the contradiction I learned about myself was that there were some kids who would just not get a certain math concept but I kept at them whether they got it or not. I then applied this same stamina to kids I thought were too rough and I thought about how kids may think I was too good for me to mentor them. But after volunteering at a Youth Home, I realized that give or take a few bad decisions; we are all pretty much the same. The only real difference is that people set me on the right path before I got old enough to really make some bad decisions.

We are living in a world where we can’t afford to not be very aggressive about developing and mentoring youth. And we all know of a couple kids who you know that within two to three years, they will probably set themselves up for a rough and tumble life. Snatch them up. Who cares if you can’t go to the center every night of the week. Go on the weekends. Just call folks and make sure kids are doing their homework. It really doesn’t take much and once you start, it will hopefully become a lifestyle that will enrich your life as much as theirs. And as my good friend Dumi pointed out, once you start a family, you will have a lot less time to mentoring so take advantage of your youth and freedom and start living your life so that once you leave this earth, your heart is empty due to the love and respect you showed others. And so I am not mistaken, love is an action that entails doing things you may not necessarily want to do. But to whom much is given much is required. And this means you don’t have a choice so snatch up some kids and make it happen.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

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