Alfonzo Porter is a contributor to The RootDC and the author of “More Like Barack, Less Like Tupac: Eradicating the Academic Achievement Gap by Countering Decades of the Hip Hop Hoax.” He is a speaker, consultant, former teacher and school administrator.
As the Prince George’s community prepares to bury yet another child victim of violence, we can expect to hear the familiar exclamations of outrage, confusion and frustration, followed by sighs of weariness and despair — our hearts and souls seemingly in a constant state of mourning for our youth.
On the heels of the tragic August 22 shooting death of Amber Stanley, a bright, talented student at Charles Herbert Flowers
High School came another brutal episode that claimed the life of Marckel Norman Ross, a junior at Central High School.
Ross, 18, was on his way to school in Capitol Heights when he was shot and killed on Sept 11. Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday in Landover.
For all of the outpouring of anger and fear I heard this week about the two shooting deaths, I was once again disappointed that there wasn’t the similar outcry we heard from local and national leaders and student groups after the Trayvon Martin killing. Where were the marches and national statements of grief for Amber and Marckel? As with many of the issues that continue to plague our communities, it’s time to shift our priorities and rally our national leaders with the kind of focus and determination we saw in March when so many rallied behind Martin’s parents.
A good place to start would be this week. With a large swath of the nation’s black leadership converging on Washington for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 42nd annual legislative conference, it might seem a natural assumption that these issues would be at the forefront of the conference’s agenda. But a cursory inspection of the organization’s Web site does not reveal the slightest mention of the continual violence occurring in our communities. This should rank as priority No. 1 as the most challenging problem confronting the African American community.
So I offer this: The convention, billed as the preeminent think tank for concerns facing black people in America, represents an excellent opportunity to plan and create a vision for solving the problems that continue to destroy too many young lives. Let’s start with how we can continue to address violence against one another.
The Congressional Black Caucus week should be a time and place where legislators invite national organizations and launch a 20-year effort, with a 10-point strategy, all with specific, measurable objectives aimed at addressing the most critical issues involving the black community as a whole. The annual legislative conference could serve as the point where outcomes and results are shared and programs refocused and revised.
For example, the National Medical Association, in tandem with the National Black Nurses Association and other organizations, can address the high instances of hypertension, infant mortality and poor nutritional habits that cause medical issues. They could hold a workshop on their results every CBC week and be held accountable for their progress.
The National Association of Black School Educators could create a plan that calls for schools across the country to ensure that the parent of every newborn child receives information, in the child’s first month of life, that spells out the learning and developmental expectations five years in advance. If we can somehow ensure success in school early on, we can make an impact upon the drop-out rate in the long term.
The National Bar Association, working with the National Black Police Association, can address criminal justice concerns, violence and strategies to reduce homicide nationally. Black social workers and black psychologists could be charged with helping improve family mental health and advocating to restore reasonable parent discipline in the home.
As a guest on a recent local radio program discussing the deaths of Stanley and Ross, I could feel the anxiety and profound anguish of the callers as parents continually lamented how much they worry about the general safety of their children.
When I voiced my opinion about a long term, national, collaborative, strategic effort to address violence in the community, the call lines were flooded saying that it was about time for something like that. What this told me is that many of those callers want leadership. They want places to go to channel their anger and concerns into constructive action.
Crime will not go away, but we are not helpless or impotent to establish measurable, long-term goals and objectives to deal with matters that continue to vex us all. The answers will only come through specific actions that take on the real essence of why these offenses continue.
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