After spending a week of planning In Birmingham, AL with colleagues & leaders from around the country for the 3rd annual Cities United Convening, I am not only recharged, but also encouraged. We convened to discuss to best practices and solutions to engage and change the narrative for young men of color across America. During this conference, I was reminded that the cavalry isn’t coming to save us. Some might get discouraged thinking that there’s no hope in that statement, I however felt better after hearing it. This convening was a timely reminder that the cavalry isn’t coming because it is already here.
This idea was driven home by Shawn Dove, CEO of Campaign for Black Male Achievement. His words not only moved the audience during the closing plenary, but they also brought me back to a place of understanding personal power. The concept of personal power reminded me that I play a part in changing the world and the lives in it. My spirit stands in great faith because I also understand that everyone else around me possesses that same power to invoke change. I get it, we aren’t demi Gods and super humans from the marvel cinematic Universe, but what we are is a group of capable individuals gifted with the tools and resources to do great things.
It’s easy to get excited thinking about the fact that we all have gifts and that those gifts can create a global impact. Before we jump off a wall in excitement we must remember that our capabilities must be in alignment with our willingness. When we look at the current state of men of color the numbers from crime, incarceration & violence can put your willingness in a place of paralysis. If we can honest it is very hard to move when we don’t see a purpose. I have personally felt this way as of lately. Whether I was waking up in Chicago or on the road before getting up to speak to an audience in a different city, I’d receive text and news alerts about another shooting taking place in my home town of Chicago.
By the time we got to April of this year we had over 1,000 shootings throughout the city. Many people posted about that number via social media and stated how “we gotta do better” & “this number of shootings is ridiculous”. I however could only think about the trauma that this number represents. Families in pain from either losing a life or almost losing one, young teens plotting for retaliation, & victims of these shootings now resting in an unexplainable empty space. This same trauma is the one that we discussed during the Cities United convening. While many in the room didn’t want to talk about it, we had no choice during the first day of the conference. Brenda March, Children and Education Manager at the Parramore Kidz ZoneDirector of() in Orlando, FL, took the stage in a panel that set the tone for the conference. She talked about the young people in her community who have recently lost their lives to violence.
Brenda had very powerful words during her panel discussion, but she was not alone.
She had two young men with her that drove the conferences theme “The Fierce Urgency of Now” home. These young men who work in the field of non-violence & peace building, were also victims of violent shootings. Hearing their stories made it very obvious that we can’t continue to sit back and ask the questions of who and when. It is time to move in the fierce urgency of now with an alignment in our understanding of the power we possess and the willingness to get off of our asses and get in position.
During the conference I was reminded of my former battle with depression & suicide and even my journey of losing 175lbs. I remembered that overcoming these struggles came from my willingness & my willingness was directly connected to my belief in my ability to be the change I needed to be for a better life. In order for us to move in urgency we have to believe in our true calling as the cavalry. We were not created to be minimal in our thinking or our actions & we definitely weren’t meant to sit back and wave a white flag waiting for help. Our young men of color are suffering, this we know, but they don’t have to, if we can become intentional in our belief & willingness to help create the consistent & positive change they need.