Monday, November 8, 2010

…Still Waiting for Superman.

Until then everyone else is the bogeyman. We have become a culture of accountability: that is, holding everyone ELSE accountable. It’s the bad teachers. It’s the uninvolved parents. It’s the self-involved youth. It’s the video games. It’s the media. If we can determine the right place to affix blame, then we don’t have to do anything about the problem ourselves.  So, the fingers point every direction but inward. 

The caller to the radio talk show suggests that we make a portion of each student’s grades dependent upon the parent’s participation in his school (attendance at parent/teacher conferences, etc.) The host thinks this is a great idea. I’m thinking that we have forgotten how to be a community. Old cultures understood that the well being of youth is a community responsibility and the fate of society depends upon it.

Many youth centers now have a requirement that parents participate in order for kids to maintain their membership.  While I support doing whatever we can to encourage parents to engage more fully in their kids’ lives, these measures serve to further marginalize many youth who need their community the most. The ones whose parents can’t or won’t step up. Then we wonder why we can’t solve the “gang problem” or why our society is becoming more polarized with a large portion of our population ignorant, unable to think for themselves and exploitable by fear tactics. Thus the American dream has become a nightmare to so many young people who have no place to turn.

I sit in conversations with our boys, who tell stories of absent fathers and abusive mothers. Reggie is telling his story of his mom’s abuses and his friend recalls seeing the boy’s mother punch him in the mouth in front of several other people. This gives Reggie the courage to finally tell his story. He recalls his mother telling him not to go to school, that he’s too stupid to learn anyway. Once he gets going, the stories tumble out one after the next. His mom cracking his head open with a bottle (I personally witnessed the damages from that one); having her boyfriend beat him up; guns pulled on him in his own house; coming home on his eighteenth birthday to see all of his clothing tossed out onto the front lawn and mom greeting him at the door to tell him he doesn’t live there anymore. I remember Alejandra telling us of how her grandmother beat her with a hose because she saw another girl disrespect her and Alejandra didn’t “throw down”.

What chance do they have? Well, Alejandra and Reggie will probably be okay, because they found a community to support them when their parents won’t, one that will understand and help them heal these deep wounds. They found Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis. We will give them the love and positive regard that they don’t get at home. Not because we are a clan of altruistic do-gooders, but because we remember what old cultures knew, that the first responsibility of community is to care for its youth, that the health of our collective soul depends on it. We will then have the moral authority to hold them accountable because we first hold ourselves accountable.
 But what about the thousands of other youth in the same situation that we haven’t reached yet. They will become the parents who abuse their kids because that’s all they were ever shown and they didn’t have a society willing to catch them as they fall through the cracks of abuse and neglect. The cycle continues. 

Unless we stop this cycle by becoming a conscious intentional society, taking responsibility for all of our youth, generations from now we will still be Waiting for Superman.

Youth Mentoring Connection dreams of an Urban Oasis...a campus-like setting in the heart of South Central where kids like Reggie and Alejandra can find the community of support that all youth need. 

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

with respect,

Tony LoRe
Founder/CEO, Youth Mentoring Connection
Founder, Boarding House Mentors

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