I felt the swift whiff of a metal object race beside my right cheek only to turn around and see nothing. The feeling was as putrid as a foul stench. All I could hear was the worn-out, motorized sound from where I figured this object had come. With one older boy running right alongside me, I started thinking to myself, "Is this me?"
But my thoughts were quickly disrupted by the sounds of metal exploding against metal as a man opened fire for a reason I have never determined.
I couldn't stop running. Just the feeling of being chased raised my adrenaline level enough to keep a steady pace. Every sound seemed to surround the atmosphere. I looked up to see groups of tiny winged figures exiting places of rest. When I looked down, I saw crushed growth. Because I wasn't where I was supposed to be, those roots never had a chance to expand. I ceased life, while God saved mine.
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I was 12 years old when I found myself in that situation because of the life I chose to live at the time. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging with the wrong people. Because I put myself in a violent environment, I found myself in violent situations. I had no business being in the presence of boys as old as 17, and they had no business being in mine.
This is something I have kept a secret for a long time; but I don't know where I'd be right now if that situation had never occurred and made be realize I was on the wrong path.
Too many young people's lives are being ruined and even lost because of violence in this community. And I ask myself, "Where is the care?" We attend these funerals — crying, weeping, showing respect — but make no changes in our own lives. We praise those who have passed as if they'd lived these perfect lives, but knew that they were headed down the wrong path, yet refused to speak of it.
That's shameful. So, how can this problem be solved?
As a young man whose mother watched — and helped redirect — his every footstep, I know the importance of parent involvement and I can see the differences between myself and other youth. Parents, with the help of police, need to enforce curfews for children. There is no reason that a 12- or 13-year-old is hanging out in the middle of the night with negative influences, yet I see it everywhere. Parents have every right to know what a child is doing, where the child is spending time and who that child is with.
Also, police officers should do more to influence communities positively. Their jobs are not only to enforce the laws, but also to help educate about the importance of obeying the laws. They should spend more time talking with youth, trying to help them. Kids would gain a lot more respect for police authority. If you learn to respect police authority, you'll learn to respect all authority.
There are also community groups that can help influence youth, positively. Programs such as the Black Males Working Academy and the YMCA Black Achievers work hard to instill the basic values needed to become successful.
Although I've graduated from the academy, founder Roszalyn Akins still checks on me to make sure I'm out in the community being a positive leader.
The academy enforces these basic goals echoed by every participant:
I promise to give my very best to achieve my every goal,
To be faithful and disciplined with everything in my control.
Learning as much as I can for knowledge is the key.
There is nothing I cannot do, but the first step starts with me.
I represent my family, even my community as a whole,
And I refuse to let negativity keep me from my goal.
I will exceed and excel if I just have faith and believe,
For I am a future black male working and there is no limit to what I can achieve.
I will rise above all prejudices and stay positive the whole way through,
For I am a future black man working, and you can be one too.
That says it all. If we can pour these principles into every youth of this community, we can go far toward ending youth involvement with crime and violence.