11 June 2012
The Rev. Marvin Winans’ remark, “I refuse to be afraid of us,” in the wake of the robbery attack on him by four young Black men at a neighborhood gas station on Linwood and Davison, carries a moral truth is a statement deeply rooted in the belief that we cannot throw our children away or become prisoners in our own communities, afraid to go out because young Black males have become tigers in the hood, on the prowl for their next victims. I refuse to accept the notion that there is nothing else we can do, and that the solution is to dump Detroit and move out as quickly as you can. While such reasoning is politically expedient and the common sense thing to do in a state of fear, it is not the answer to the growing socioeconomic ills facing our community. It is not the answer to halt the violence in our town.
To conclude that the best way to deal with the escalating violence in Detroit is to move out of the city is a defeatist attitude grounded in a weak notion that, in fact, we can no longer be problem solvers. Therefore, we should run away from the problem.
What happened to our resilient spirit?
The carjacking of Rev. Winans, a prominent Detroit minister and nationally celebrated gospel singer who was driving with a suspended license, provides a context for our men and women of the clergy to be engaged in tackling the despicable acts of crime in this city.
Just as many were concerned about Winans and his well-being in the aftermath of the carjacking, we should all be equally concerned about the escalating crime rate in our city, and the senseless taking of lives.
We should be concerned about the young woman who was raped in view of her child in broad daylight on Detroit’s west side.
Children and adults are dying in horrific numbers, and the perpetrators of the crimes are usually young Black men.
The young men who attacked Rev. Winans did not know who their victim was, despite his being a prominent figure, seen often on television and in the print media. It says something much deeper: how out of touch they are with the real world outside of their own underworld of violence and mayhem.
If those young men had been properly steered on a right, productive path they would not have become carjackers.
If properly brought up in a nurturing environment and having the self-confidence to know they can be whoever they choose to be, they would not be lured into a world of crime and drugs.
Yes, they must bear personal responsibility, but as a community we also bear responsibility. Churches in particular cannot sit on the sidelines, claiming that parents have all of the responsibility.
What happened to the communal spirit that made each of us responsible for the other? Our brother’s keeper.
What happened to the church that was once the center of our life and thus took a prominent role in the well-being of our children – the future leaders?
Truth be told, Rev. Winans’ attack brought the violent crime in Detroit to the doorstep of the church, and has prompted many in the clergy to call for some kind of action, and knowing that they could be the next victim.
The church has long been the center of transformation and at this crucial time cannot ignore its role in the community. The engagement has to reflect a broader embrace of children who are often treated as outcasts. They need not be.
The interest has to go beyond church members focusing on their own well-being. After all, the church’s Biblical mandate is to go in search of the lost, not the saved.
We have lost young Black males walking down the streets like lions looking for someone to devour. They need to be saved and mentored into understanding that they have great potential, they need not rob, sell drugs or kill.
If their homes did not remind or inculcate in them that sense of personal responsibility, the church can help them develop a clear path to the future. Because the Black church historically has been the guiding light for our communities.
If there was ever a time for the church to demonstrate its power, it is now when Black children are dying and adults are being killed by their own children.
To be commended are the group of clergy members, including Bishop Edgar Vann, as well as members of the law enforcement community and other leaders who last week launched an initiative called Detroit Night Walk to fight crime.
We can create change and help those young Black males trapped at the crossroads of drug dealing and carjacking. I believe that we can transform young Black males who believe they have no alternatives and no future.
In the words of the hip-hop icon and street poet Tupac Shakur, we can make these young Black males “the rose that grew from concrete,” because by virtue of being a Black male they already live under the heavy weight of stereotypes just as we saw in the Trayvon Martin case.
Our young Black males — and anyone who is raising a Black boy is aware of this reality — are already facing an image battle, and many of them are holding our community hostage.
The church can liberate the hostage taker and the hostages.
Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part series on the Obama presidency, including “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published last year. His latest book is ”Obama and Christian Loyalty” with an epilogue written by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His upcoming books in 2012 are “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” and ”Obama and Business Loyalty.” Listen to him every Thursday morning on WDET 101.9 FM Detroit and every Sunday, 9 to 10 p.m., on “The Obama Watch” program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. •