VOICES OF THE VILLAGE By Lissa Jones—What would you give to save our babies?

“I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa; there are blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there.”
— Marcus Garvey

In my last column, I talked about the idea that what we read, watch and log on to matters. In this column, I want to talk about the reality that the people we have in our lives matter, too.

When I look over our babies in the village, I don’t have to look far to see their parents. I don’t mean to physically see their parents; I mean that I see the parents and their examples in our children.

A young man of about 15 or so at the bus stop: “F*** that, man, you the sh**. You got this, f*** them!” His little brother is standing right beside him, soaking up every word.

I think to myself, “Babies, what are you doing downtown cussing at the bus stop on a Friday night? Isn’t your mama or daddy concerned about you two being out this late? Tons of busses pass, and you and your friends, all baby faces, keep passing the same cigarette around, cussing up a storm.”

If you read my column or listen to “Urban Agenda,” you know that I share these thoughts in the spirit of love. This is not meant to shame or blame anybody. This is meant to call us to another awakening, to take our children back.

There was a time, not so long ago, when our children were sold for their labor. The ancestors saw to it that our babies would not be left to that fate. It is time now that we, tomorrow’s ancestors, do our work, too.

Crack cocaine devastated the village because it was the first drug to take our women in large numbers. Crack, like slavery, stole our mothers and grandmothers, our aunts, sisters and cousins. Tupac Shakur said it best: “There are two kinds of Black people, those born before crack, and those born after it.”

I grew up in a time, as I suspect did a number of you, and in a place where we knew our neighbors, and where discipline was meted out from the place where you did the deed all the way home! A place where the Elders commanded our respect, both because this is the way our parents raised us and because the Elders lived in such a way as to demand our respect.

After crack, Tupac continued, all that was left in the village to raise our babies our babies were the pimp, the prostitute, the drug dealer and the “poverty pimps.” The information our babies were getting, the books they were reading, the songs they were playing, all were informed by street life. The values and principles our babies were taught were all based in street culture. That was all, Tupac said, that was left for them.

As men and women of the village, we are called to change this. We can change this! Just as in the time of our upbringing the whole village took responsibility for all of ours, we can do this, too.

First, pulling the log out of my own eye, I am called to reflect on the example I am setting. Does my behavior reflect what I expect to see from my children when they are in the care of others?

Next, I am called to think about the way I speak to my children, and what I speak to them about. A 10-year-old is just that, still a baby, and should not be exposed to adult matters and conversation until the baby is an adult. What are the babies hearing from us?

Third, I ask myself whether I am concerned only for those babies I’ve given birth to, or whether my responsibility extends to all of our children. The toughest part about this one is to ask myself whether or not my behavior says to all the children I meet, “I care for you.”

Our ancestors were willing to give their lives to save our babies from a horrible fate. Malcolm X gave his life at just 39 years old. Harriet Tubman already reached freedom when she came back for three hundred more. What are you willing to give to save our babies today?

“I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around. Gonna keep on walkin’, keep on talkin’, all the way to freedom’s land.” (Negro spiritual)

Hear Lissa Jones’ radio show “Urban Agenda” on 89.9 KMOJ-FM Thursday nights at 6 pm, stream her live at www.kmojfm.com, or read web posts from Lissa at www.kmojfm.com. She welcomes reader responses to ljones@spokesman-recorder.com.