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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6 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: It Takes The Entire Community Stop Urban Crime

  1. It’s not only the youth that have succumbed to the “Jay Z School Of How To Get Rich And Famous Being A Drug Dealing Gang Banger”. The grown ups are enrolled and fully engaged. This is why we are doomed. After all, who was seen standing on stage with the POTUS during his campaign? Non other than Joe Camel himself. It’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any kind of better.

  2. seriously on said:

    Nothing we get better in these neighborhoods until black people accept responsibility for their own actions and part they actively take part in tearing down their own communities and families.

    We where born into racism and will probably die into as well, however in between we have a God given right and responsibility to live a life of abundance and dignity. Something we will only get from each other, and today it is truly a sad state of affairs.

    However, you can scrap that deadbeat dads returning, because most of them have nothing to offer a child anyways. That had no intention of staying and could careless if these children live or die. Single moms, they need to first not have children they cannot afford because the odds our against them, 80% remain in poverty and so will their children. These are things we could stop easily. Birth Control

    These women tear down and hate on each other so much, they are just as destructive as the black men committing these crimes in our communities. I know I often wonder why these single moms never join forces to help we being effective parents, offer and run after school programs, tutoring, music, dance (We know that children who participate in such activities make better grades and it is a form of discipline and structure as well). They do nothing! Except blame the men they choose themselves to have a child with, when in fact they are no better or they would not have been with him in the first place…This is not a male vs. female problem. Perhaps we should gather these women and men and ask them what are they willing to do about this. Because it is really little you can do about poor minded people, that is worse than living in poverty. The mindset has to change and change starts from the insides. I personally only help people who wants something out of life, who can look at their ghetto environment and culture and say ” I am not going out like this”…Everybody except me.

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