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A Charge to Keep

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.
The Truth Contributor

  Our children are in trouble because we adults are in trouble.             

 - Camille Yarborough  
 

 

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

The Swahili proverb “One hand does not nurse a child,” or its Nigerian equivalent “It takes a whole village to raise a child” both demonstrate the long held African-American principle that child upbringing is a community responsibility. At no other time in history, then, are these ancient proverbs more timely and relevant than for our situation in today’s America.

This week I present an essay by my friend and colleague, Froswa’ Booker-Drew, PhD, who reminds us of our historical obligation to nurture and protect our children, a charge our fractured community has failed to keep.

Commentary: We Might Not Have Justice, but We Still Have The Village

by Froswa' Booker-Drew

Our children are not safe, and the village is no longer paying attention.

In the last few months, there have been endless stories of young people being violated: the teenage girl being gang-raped while others watched live on Facebook; the teenage boy bullied to the point of suicide; the 16-year-old girl who died following a fight in a high school bathroom; the stepfather killing the daughter he impregnated; the teacher who had sex with her former student in her car.

In many of these instances, people were aware, watched and did absolutely nothing. Co-workers at Dairy Queen knew the young boy was being bullied; they often joined in. Other young girls videotaped the bathroom death of the high schooler but did nothing to help. Several people watched the Facebook live stream of the girl being raped and many threatened her life after she reported it.

These young people were not safe in environments where they should have felt safe, and their lives apparently did not matter to those who watched them being victimized.  A large part of the problem is that we have become isolated in our communities. Many of us don't know our neighbors or trust many people.  This limits our circle of support.

Our communities and our children do not thrive when we live in fear, hide and are isolated from one another. Research shows the well-being of a community is based on the connections and relationships that members of the community have with one another. The work of McMillan & Chavis (1986) created a framework of multiple elements for having a sense of community. Communities with actively engaged residents create a sense of belonging. When we feel connected, valued, and heard, we experience emotional safety and personal investment. In our current environment, whether urban or suburban, there are deficits in many of these areas and our communities are suffering because of it, especially our children.

It was not always this way. When I was growing up in Shreveport, LA, there were many people outside of my family — teachers, neighbors, and church members — who looked out for me, made sure I was safe and cared for. They offered advice (even when I didn’t want it) and intervened when other children, or even other adults, behaved inappropriately. Today, many of our young people do not have reliable safety nets. Community has been sacrificed to our busy lives, limited conversations, information overload and unwillingness to get involved. When it comes to the well-being of our children, we need to reconstitute "the village."

The village is not just a neighborhood of homes. It is filled with people of various backgrounds, life experiences and ages who all want better for their families and recognize that there is strength in unity. The village understands that if one succeeds, all succeed; that collective knowledge and resources are necessary for growth and support. It is a place of protection, safety and care. Relational theorists maintain that when the village listens and welcomes different opinions, those who live there have a sense of worth, mutual empathy and empowerment, authenticity and growth-fostering relationships. It isn’t Mayberry and Andy Griffith isn’t the sheriff, but it is a place where we work and play together, where we say hello and acknowledge each other by name. We sometimes grab coffee and just sit and talk. It’s scary, but we should be willing to take the risk of building community.

Protecting our children is essential. To change the tide of abuse, neglect and disconnection, we must return to building the basic blocks of community, creating spaces where everyone belongs. It isn’t about whether I like you or not. It is about respecting the life and dignity of every human being.  We all deserve to be safe and confident that others will come to our rescue knowing that the next time it may be them in need.  It is a personal investment in our children and in our communities, something that goes beyond lip service to ensuring that we are modeling the behavior we’d like to see in them and in other adults.

I am grateful for the protection from my village, and I’m glad to be that for my daughter’s friends and the young people I mentor in my community. All of our children deserve active, caring, involved participation from the adults in their lives: mentoring, advocating and teaching our children compassion. It means changing our mindset from me to we.

Froswa' Booker-Drew, Ph.D., is the director of Community Affairs/Strategic Alliances for the State Fair of Texas and the author of two workbooks for women. She is a Dallas Public Voices Fellow.

First published by NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Reprinted with permission of Froswa’ Booker-Drew, PhD

 

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org

 

 
  

Copyright © 2017 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/29/17 23:53:47 -0700.

 

 


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