2010 International Urban Peace and Justice Empowerment Summit in Atlanta
It’s no secret that for some, childhood isn’t what it used to be. Once representative of purity and innocence, often youth of color are only presented with poverty, blight, and despair. The toy soldiers and playground pastimes have been replaced with survival games and street wars. Recently, two particularly charged school yard crimes garnered national outrage as families demanded safer spaces for their children; the brutal beating of young Derrion Albert in Chicago, and the vicious gang rape of a 15 year old girl in California. Commonly, the death of young black and brown youth doesn’t raise much of an eyebrow, let alone uproar.
Indeed, the faceless victims are often just shoveled into the sobering statistics. Almost half of all death of African American males 15-35 results from homicide, making it the leading cause of death for this cohort! This growing death toll is much more than a national outbreak, it’s a global culture. Because of egregious disparities in wealth, and education, hundreds of thousands of youth are born into war-torn countries in crisis. For many around the globe, senseless death and violence has simply been integrated as a part life.
Most recently the country of Haiti has suffered from an unspeakable disaster that has killed over 200,000 people and reduced their infrastructure to graves and rubble. Because of the extreme nature of this tragedy, millions have reached out to offer their dollars and support.
Though this magnitude of disaster is quite unique to Haiti, most black and brown communities globally are victim to violent social tremors that continually shake and overturn their daily terrain. Each social tremor: the failing education system, the penal industrial complex, abject poverty, learned self-hatred, lingers menacingly in our neighborhoods, consistently, taking the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Similar to the tragedy in Haiti, most of our communities lack the infrastructure to respond to the tremors, to minimize the damage, and prevent future devastation. Even more tragic is the tendency of outsiders to offer blame, rather than aid, exploitation, rather than partnerships.
The violence that we are experiencing in our communities today is the product of the social conditions that exist in Black communities across the nation. We have more crime because we have more poverty; we have more unemployment not only because of economic conditions, but also because disparities and lack of opportunities still exist. This problem is going to persist until we have international and national policies that address the basic fundamental quality of life issues in this country and emerging poor countries throughout the Diaspora.
We need well developed strategies that are relevant to the needs of young people, particularly youth in urban areas. Youth need hi-quality education and training. They need jobs that offer living wages. They need recreational and cultural activities that will enrich their lives. Services in these areas are irrelevant, diminishing and/or non-existent. What we are experiencing today is a direct result of increasing levels of deprivation and misery in our communities, compounded by the unbridled influx of drugs and guns in our communities.
When one looks at the school drop out rates, the crime rate, the homicide rate, and the incarceration rate of men of color, it becomes obvious that there is something amiss - that the strategies and tactics used to mitigate these issues has not proven to be successful in the long run, providing sustainable results. The problems are going to get worse unless there is direct intervention from the public, private and community sector to save young people, and a paradigm shift in thinking about how best to resolve what has now developed into a serious escalating social disease.
Violence (a preventable circumstance), is a symptom of a larger social and economical set of conditions. Contrary to some opinions - murder and mayhem do not come naturally to or are inherent in one group of people. Black or otherwise, violent behavior is encouraged by the environmental conditions that people find themselves in. Filled with disparities in education and lack of opportunities, paired with substance abuse and underemployment, violence springs from the hopelessness felt by people living in overwhelming systemic conditions and don’t believe things can get better.
We are requesting the Obama Administration to be more committed and dedicated to creating enforceable policies that will guarantee quality education and employment opportunities, thereby working towards the elimination of poverty. But it does not stop there! Faith-based and community based organizations, universities, schools, communities, parents and youth all have to be committed to and take responsibility for working together to become change agents in their community.
In the spirit of President Obama’s request for a National Dialogue, The International Council for Peace, Justice and Empowerment and Co Conveners is hosting a summit; A Call To Action Impact Discussion on:
* Social and Economic Justice
* Gang Prevention
* Prison Industrial Complex
* Urban Policy (Both Foreign and Domestic)
* Criminalization of Black and Brown People
* Equitable distribution of Resources in the Communities of Color
The International Council for Peace Justice and Empowerment is an umbrella organization with over 35 affiliates throughout the country. For over 17 years, The Council has sponsored National Gang (Street organization) Summits; we have provided prevention and intervention work all over the U.S. to affect change in the lives of youth affected by poverty, and street warfare. Their first summit was held in Kansas City in 1993, at the peak of gang season, and with the collaboration of the council, indigenous leadership, city officials, and even then community organizer Barack Obama – the rates of violence in the affected cities decreased dramatically. Since the first Summit, the International Council has brought their unorthodox methods of conflict resolution around the world, orchestrating gang truces and implementing preventative social programming.
On February 26th and 27th at Morris Brown University we will convene for two days to address the institutional and capital viciousness that has left our youth and our communities in such desperate disarray. Looking away from the current trend of institutionalizing and criminalizing our youth of color, we will look to use more preventative methods. After all, gang violence can never be stopped without eliminating the need for those protective fraternities. This will only happen by eradicating the impoverished communities and offering peace, reconciliation, and opportunity in exchange for the street life.
We are calling all those who are truly committed to this generation to step down from their silos – doctors, public officials, activists, organizers, professors, teachers, families, students and youth – to put together a framework for action in the Southern region.
For more information, contact: Rashad Byrdsong at (412) 371-3689 x 13
Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.