This week, I heard stories that disappointed me to the core. I had a teenage boy to tell me that the cops pulled a gun out on him. When I asked why, he explained that he was caught out past his curfew as well as “doing things he had no business doing.” Because of that, when the police saw him and questioned him, he took off running. They chased him for some time until they threatened to take other actions if the boy didn’t stop running and get on the ground. Needless to say, the boy finally complied and was apprehended for breaking his curfew and running from officers. When his father picked him up from the police station, he fussed at him for not running fast enough. I hope that was a made up story. However, because I know the young man and his father, the story is not hard to believe.
Another young man told me “I just got out of court Mr. Romel.” When I asked why he even had to go to court, he explained to me that he missed our city issued curfew too many times and was finally taken into custody. While he was talking to me, he was smiling as if his police interaction and subsequent arrest was no big deal.
At the top of July I wrote an article entitled “Am I Next?” The article was in response to the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile murders. Well, I’m pleased to announce and it’s safe to say (by virtue that you’re reading a current article of mine) that I wasn’t next. I’m still here. As happy as I am to announce that I wasn’t next, I’m equally saddened to announce that Castile wasn’t last. In doing research for this particular article, I found a website that reported that there have been 884 deaths by the hands of police in 2016. The site lists each person’s name, gender, state and the date they were killed. There is no way I am going to research each person to see if this site is accurate and reputable. However, if they are accurate, Alton Sterling was number 603 and Philando Castile was 609. I am aware that every case does not get high profile, national attention. Yet and still, I was not aware that there were as many cases as this site has reported. Castile is supposedly 609 and there have been 884 deaths to date. This means that not only was I not next, but there have been 275 people since Castile. Of the 275, all were not male. All were not black. Certainly, all were not innocent. Yet and still, it is impossible for me to ignore the alarming rate at which blacks (primarily males) have had their lives taken. According to a census study, there are almost 160 million more whites than blacks in America. Yet, a recent analysis shows that African Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be shot by the police as White people. There is no one answer as to why that is. However, it is impossible for me to ignore the fact that if the best advice we can give our young black sons is to run faster, we’ll likely see more deaths before the year ends. With all that being said, I’d like to give you 3 things to consider when working to save our young black teenagers.
Tell Them NOT to Run
There is nothing we can tell anyone to guarantee them that they will make it home at the end of the day. Innocent and unarmed people are killed at high rates. However, running away communicates that you were doing something you shouldn’t have been doing. That alone increases your chances of being in danger.
Employ Your Village
I understand that there are sometimes extenuating circumstances that are beyond the parent’s control. Many work night shift. Many work multiple jobs. Many are single parents and are doing their best to keep their children in line. It really does take a village to raise a child. I appreciate it when a parent calls me to assure that their child is with me. I appreciate it when a parent tells me that I have their permission to discipline their child when I see them out of line. I call that employing your village. It is usually not that kind of parent who has to worry about their child being out without adult supervision past their curfew.
Be the Example
They may not listen to what you say, but they will DEFINITELY watch what you do. So, be the example and set the standard high.
Romel Gibson is a youth and college pastor, mentor, community leader, motivational speaker, musician, and songwriter living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He serves as a full- time Campus Life Director with Youth for Christ, one of the largest non-profit youth evangelism ministries in the world. As a songwriter, his most notable works include L. Spenser Smith and Testament (Greater, Surgery), Tonya Baker (Miracles), The Anointed Pace Sisters (Praise and Worship), Myron Butler (Changed), Marvin Sapp (Never), Ruben Studdard (Holding On To You Lord), and Johnny Gill (Black Box).Romel has been married for 12 years to his college best friend Quanedra. Together they have been blessed with three beautiful daughters; Allayna Pilar, Moriah Kelis, and Rylee Addison.