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I made a promise (to myself) that I would blog at least once per week back in December and although I haven’t done that I am still trying to be consistent and there is not shortage of things to talk about.
Actually, that’s sort of the problem. There is SO MUCH to talk about that I can’t ever figure out where to start. Life has been sorta, kinda trying to kick my butt lately – but if you know anything about me you already know that I’m nice with my hands so I’m not worried. It’ll all work out.
This past week I was so riled up about this crazy video went viral showing an incident between Temple University Police and some local teenagers. A friend of mine told me about it and I went to check out the video for myself. What I saw blew me away. A cop gets into an altercation with a teenaged boy. Another cop gets involved and the boy’s friend comes to his defense. The fight falls into the street and the cop is on the bottom of the pile. While laying on his back with a coat covering his face, he pulls out his pistol and waves it above his head. The boys move off of him and he jumps up and waves the gun at the crowd of teenagers on the sidewalk yelling, “back up!” Those teens, mind you are just watching the fight. It just outraged me. And the lack of response to it has outraged me more. I get that the kids should not be fighting with cops – albeit college campus cops – apparently Temple University police are the same as Philadelphia police. But Temple University, like many urban universities is in the middle of a low-wealth community that simply gets in the way of the school’s ‘manifest destiny.’ North Philly, where Temple is located is one of the poorest sections of Philadelphia riddled with poverty and blight. The only consistent progress that I see in N. Philly is where Temple decides to build. There are all kinds of complaints about how the students from the school are being attacked regularly, so much so that they must be drowning out the news of what the state-funded university is doing to revitalize the community. Bottom line – that cop was wrong. I’ve exhausted myself thinking about this. After writing an email to the Chief of Temple police and contacting local youth group leaders and reaching out to local politicians – it is clear to me that this incident will not be addressed in the manner that is should. I keep forgetting I am not in Selma anymore and not a full-time organizer any more and really not connected to youth leaders anymore – which kind of made me sad. I don’t believe reactionary organizing is helpful in the long-term for our community, but I do believe that in many cases a reaction is necessary. The “powers that be” from media to the politicians need to see that these things bother us, that they don’t go unnoticed and that we care about how our children are treated. It was just a wake up call for me. I am used to people who swing into action. I used to be one of them. I am afraid that in my effort to move away from the tactics and philosophies that I thought were ineffective in my work in Alabama I might have thrown the baby out with the bath water. But that’s for me to figure out. I need to figure out how to be strategic and proactive in this reality. Philadelphia is highly, highly political and I have never mixed well with politics – capital or lower case.
It makes me think deeply about this reunion coming up of 21St Century Leaders. 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement is the organization that I grew up in. I joined at 14 and went on to be on to work for them and later be on the Board of Directors. I love this organization for everything it gave me. My grandfather and mother grounded me in history and consciousness but 21C took it a step further and taught me what to do with it. They trained us to organize, to fight against injustice, to think about how to grow a movement and to be leaders. It was in everything we did as an organization. As we got older we (leaders) realized that although 21C had readied us to fight the good fight it did little for our emotional and spiritual development. Much of my work as an adult youth worker has been centered on developing the individual vs. the group. I felt like my calling was to deal with the radical healing of the young people in our community so that they can be whole enough to “fight the good fight” but maybe I have it wrong. Or maybe I am not seeing the whole picture. Actually, what I’m thinking is that I need a community. I want to connect with someone doing the leadership development while I do the personal development and another group handles education and another handles arts and culture and another something else and together we create what I have been calling for years: “a continuum of care” for our young people. This work shouldn’t be a competition. The fact that we are all fighting for the same dollars to help the same kids is disgusting. But I am about to get all idealistic so I’ll stop. *sigh*
I am having a conversation with myself everyday about the next best move to make. I feel like whatever the next move is for me is going to be the biggest in my life. I want to be sure and I want to be ready and I want to be supported – although if I’m not I will likely have to make it anyway. I think this week has shown me that I am moving closer and closer to the answer.