August 22, 2013
This morning, literally a couple of minutes after I had hit “send” on an email which was written by my colleague, Bob Baskin, discussing the growing political awareness that alternatives to mass incarceration are needed in America, I had an emotional “gut punch” reality check moment that really got to me — and I felt I had to write about it.
I was listening to a local-based story on NPR’s Morning Edition. The segment was about the low graduation rate for at-risk African American males in hard hit parts of the San Francisco Bay Area (my home). It was ultimately a hopeful story about a new mentoring program inside several schools that is providing much needed support for these youth.
About halfway through the story, the reporter rather casually shared that the mentors and students in one school had set up an “altar in their classroom” to honor all their friends who’d been murdered. That was the first heart-wrenching moment. These young, beautiful, vulnerable kids actually have to live in a community where their friends being murdered is at such a high level that they would even have to set up altars in their school classrooms to memorialize them and help them heal? This is their daily norm? Wow.
The story went on to explore more about how several of the youths lives had been changed positively by having a mentor to guide them, moving stories of how this relatively minimal level of support had impacted their lives.
Then the story ended with a statement that really got to me. The reporter shared that in many of these schools the death rate, from homicide, for African American male teenagers was higher than the graduation rate.
Well, I must admit I lost it there. I have shed more than a few tears trying to soak that in. My mind wants to shut it out it’s so unbearable, but I will not.
It is agonizing to me that that is the truth of so many young lives – in my own community. And mine is not the only community in the U.S. with this problem. I honestly can’t understand how we can live in a society that lets this kind of thing happen, en masse. Especially when we have the tools to make it better.
Generally speaking, this kind of information wasn’t really news to me, it’s one of the main drivers for my motivation to do this work. This morning though, it hit me anew. I knew I had to write each of you to ask again for your help.
As community members, if we don’t individually and collectively step up to have these kids backs, who will? Instead of incarcerating so many of our youth who live in what are essentially traumatizing war zones, we should be rallying around them with every resource at our disposal.
I’m asking you to please take just a moment today to call your Members of Congress to ask them to get behind the Youth PROMISE Act (see sample script and call details below). This Act could fund thousands of empowering and proven peacebulding programs around the nation, focusing on our hardest hit areas. And it has a real chance at passing.
There is much more that needs to be done beyond getting this bill passed, but it will bring significant relief. Let’s take a stand for our youth today and everyday. Please take a moment…
Call Your Members of Congress Today!
Urge them to pass the Youth PROMISE Act, HR1318/S1307, now.
You can find your Members of Congress and their contact information here.
Here is a quick and easy SAMPLE SCRIPT of what you can say to your Representative:
My name is _____, I am a constituent calling today to urge the Congress(wo)man to co-sponsor the Youth PROMISE Act, HR 1318, sponsored by Congressmen Bobby Scott and Walter Jones. The Youth PROMISE Act is an approach to addressing youth violence and crime that uses proven preventive strategies chosen by local communities. It saves money and saves lives, and would only fund approaches that have already been proven to work. For these reasons, I think the Congress(wo)man should sign on in support of the Youth PROMISE Act.
Here is a quick and easy SAMPLE SCRIPT of what you can say to your Senators:
My name is _____, I am a constituent calling today to urge the Senator to co-sponsor the Youth PROMISE Act, S. 1307, sponsored by Senators Landreiu and Inhofe. The Youth PROMISE Act is an approach to addressing youth violence and crime that uses proven preventive strategies chosen by local communities. It saves money and saves lives, and would only fund approaches that have already been proven to work. For these reasons, I think the Senator should sign on in support of the Youth PROMISE Act.
Call any time, most elected officials have voice mail after hours and you can simply leave a message. You can also write them here.
Thank you for your help.