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COMMUNITY VOICE

Community dysfunction thrives when people lack disciplined lives

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 6:17 am

“In these bloody days and frightful nights when an urban warrior can find no face more despicable than his own, no ammunition more deadly than self-hate and no target more deserving of his true aim than his brother, we must wonder how we came so late and lonely to this place. In this terrifying and murderous season, when young women achieve adulthood before puberty and become mothers before learning how to be daughters, we should stop the rhetoric and high-sounding phrases, stop the posing and preening and begin fiercely looking to our own welfare.” — Maya Angelou

These words are disturbingly scary because they sound timely and contemporary. And yet, they were written 16 years ago in response to the growth of black-on-black crimes' ugly glow.

So, the sad reality is that this is nothing new, and it's clearly past time for us to begin acting like we have a clue. Like Cain, who served as his brother's grim reaper, we have abandoned our moral responsibility to be our brother's keeper. It's time to stop the pain and allowing violence to reign, and recapture the spirit of our elders who were able to find success while traveling in a far more difficult lane.

They endured segregation but held on to a spirit of determination. They were denied equal rights, but they never succumbed to fatal internal fights. Some were ultimately lynched, but those who survived refused to allow their communal cohesiveness to be pinched. They stayed together, despite some turbulent and tedious social and racial weather.

One need only look to the Montgomery bus boycott as an example of both audacity and tenacity. For 381 days they made a decision to exist without division. They took to the street with the sound of their feet, and ultimately began a prairie fire that would lead to segregation's defeat. The tide was finally turned because our ancestors had decided to be united. They remained varied in political and socioeconomic creed, but had come together around a single deed.

History reveals that no lasting community change has come from people outside the community range. Our streets will continue bleeding until all of us start individual leading. If we want to stop the drug dealers' band, then we have to stop the drug buyers' demand. If we want a sense of dignity to return to our neighborhoods, then we have to stop allowing our homes to be furnished with stolen goods.

If we want our children to do better in school, then we have to stop allowing television and video games to rule. Stop allowing our girls to leave the house wearing an inappropriate blouse, and if the boy is wearing pants that sag remind him that it's simply a criminal red flag. And yes, we have to stop ignoring our children's illicit behavior just because we may later need them to do us a favor. If our homes continue to lack the right voices our children will continue to make the wrong choices. We cannot hold others accountable if our own actions are irresponsible.

That's the hidden message behind starting another fast, because until we embrace lives of discipline the dysfunction will continue to last. But a people who exercise discipline will always win. It's not about growing thin; it's about demonstrating the tenacity it takes to win.

This is not about losing physical weight; it's about unleashing a wave of discipline throughout our community's gate that will ultimately overpower our tons of negative freight. It's about showing the power of a disciplined mind and its propensity to leave unhealthy excuses behind.

The Rev. Bill McGill is senior pastor at Imani Baptist Temple.