COMMENTARY: It Takes The Entire Community Stop Urban Crime

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Last week in Chicago, 11-year-old Shamiya Goodloe was shot and killed by a stray bullet that broke through the window of the first-floor bedroom of a friend’s house.

“A great-grandmother should not have to bury their great-grandchild,” Shamiya’s great-grandmother Lourene Miller told reporters. “This is some pain I can’t even explain; it hurts so bad.”

While federal officials are sending more agents to Chicago to help the police department fight the escalating violence, a Florida barbershop owner, in his own small way, is trying to effect change. He’s using books to help quell violence in his community where the high school graduation rate is reportedly just 50 percent.

Reggie Ross, the owner of Royal Touch Barbershop in Palm Beach County, Florida is asking his young customers to read one of the books he offers while they wait to get their haircut. He also tells them they are welcome to read the books aloud to generate discussion.

“I’m very selective about the books here,” the 35-year-old shop owner told the Times. “We emphasize culture and broadening their horizons—books that are going to help them to get ahead in life.”

Ross, an innovator, is taking the lead in his community, and frankly, his initiative should be a model for other black barbershops –and recreation centers – in black communities across the country. Kids can watch a movie or listen to music in Ross’ shop, but only if they can provide the definition of an assigned vocabulary word first.

This is the kind of leadership that is critical for our communities – and it resonates with me.

When I was a boy growing up in Detroit, in addition to my assigned schoolwork, my father would drop me off at the library and tell me to find a book, read it, and write a book report about it just for him. I would write the book report and we’d sit at the dining room table and discuss it.

I’m still writing today.

According to the South Florida Times, Ross started this initiative at his barber shop to dispel the negative stereotype that black men don’t read.

“The barbershop is based on men coming together grooming each other to become better men, and I think books and education is a fundamental part of that,” Ross told reporters. “I tell them the reason they fight is because they don’t have enough words [to express themselves]. If you talk to some of these kids, they’re some of the brightest kids that ever lived. Some of them are just not exposed to much.”

God bless Ross. It may seem like a small thing to some, but it’s part of the kind of community engagement we need to have with our young people. We should consider following his example.

What do you think?

(Photo: AP)

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