Look at any major city in this country plagued by violence and drugs and I’ll show you a city devoid of something that has nothing to do with more law enforcement, security and guns. That something that’s missing is hope.

You can throw all the money, programs and political promises in the world at the problem but without hope, it’s useless. The killings taking place in Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia are mostly gun crimes by black people against black people.

Poverty, lack of opportunities and poor education are part of the problem, but you can’t put it all on that. Black people have lived under conditions this bad and worse without resorting to the kind of violence we’re seeing today.

Our biggest and most important task is to try to reach the children…to make sure they’re getting the kind love and nurturing that leads to them feeling hopeful about their future.

The old, standby answer that “it starts in the home” isn’t as valid as it used to be. That works when the home is stable, but what about kids who have lived in places that are mired in dysfunction…drugs, alcohol, abuse, violence, mental illness…what about them? Who will give them hope?

We used to understand that we are all family, and if a child was lacking something we had, it was our duty to share with them. When this way of thinking was prevalent, communities thrived, in some cases, in spite of poverty, substandard schools, etc. Our communities weren’t perfect, but they were a lot better than they are now.

I’m all for programs geared to help young people. They’re needed and they work.  Ask people who grew up in the 70s about the impact the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) had on their lives.  Then ask them what happened to their cities when Ronald Reagan abolished the program.  It opened the door to more gang violence, drugs and other crimes. Many of the people caught up in that web, for whatever reason, are the parents and grandparents of the teens and young adults wreaking havoc on our communities, and they’re having kids too.

Programs can only do so much if people are empty. Until we start filling in the gaps for children and teens and even adults with no one to let them know that they matter, we will continue to see an onslaught of violence by us, against us.

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