By DWIGHT LEWIS It was a message that grabbed my attention — and, truthfully speaking, is still holding it. If you’re a caring and concerned individual, the message should grab your attention, too.
“Imagine coming into this world with a prison cell already reserved in your name,” the message read. “That is the tragedy that awaits at least one in three black boys. Millions of poor American children are condemned to prison by the time they reach their teens because they are failed at every turn in their lives — failed by their family, the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system.”
A good amount of space has been used in this column recently talking about the crisis currently facing young black males here and elsewhere. And, indeed, it is a crisis that merits the nation’s attention.
So, what’s the fix? That question has been raised in this space recently and a number of readers have responded with their thoughts, most of which are great ideas. And some of them have been shared with other readers.
“We are witnessing before our eyes a form of cultural genocide that is killing off families and threatening the very existence of certain segments of urban black America,” Lowell Perry, chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, said in an e-mail. “We are losing a generation of young African-American men to the criminal justice system in an insidious intergenerational cycle of incarceration where we are witnessing grandfathers, fathers and sons spending the wrong kind of mentoring time together in a jail cell.
“This is unacceptable!” He added: “Without intervention, over 30,000 Tennessee children with an incarcerated parent face a 70 percent likelihood of suffering the same fate. At least 7 percent of all black children have an incarcerated mother or father compared to just 0.8 percent of white children. Seven out of every 10 of these ‘invisible children’ would enter the prison system just like their parents.” Seeing more of us become mentors would help turn the crisis around, Lowell Perry believes. I agree, and if you’re interested in becoming a mentor, give Big Brothers Big Sisters a call at 615-329-9191, or go to www.mentorakid.org.