Solving the pressing family crisis in our community could start with some simple solutions. President Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope, Hill Harper’s books “Letters to a Young Brother” and “Letters to a Young Sister,” and Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint’s “Come On People” all contain a central theme on the family. To me, the theme was be careful when and with whom you start a family.
President Obama and Hill Harper were classmates at Harvard Law and both seem to emphasize waiting until the early twenties at least before making huge life decisions—like 23 years old. Of course, young people start college, training at technical schools, serving in the military and building careers before that age. But, I wish they would train, study and work by day and worship, chill and enjoy life at night and on the weekends while being very deliberate about life-altering actions like parenthood and crime.
The difference between 16 years old and 23 years ago is vast. While working in a community service program with young mothers, I quickly learned that most of the moms wished they would have waited to better know themselves and the guys with whom they were dealing before having a child. Most of my students later discovered that the dudes themselves didn’t really know who they were at the time. If you like to party, you should get partying out of your system before dramatically affecting you life and those around you.
My friends and I are constantly puzzled by young people who were raised under difficult conditions who put themselves in the same conditions. Of course, that young person’s parents often shoulder the burden of caring for the teen mom’s baby at a time when grandmothers should be enjoying relief after struggling for almost two decades and getting their money straight.
We know that medical science, diet and exercise could give young people today the opportunity to live 20 years longer than their grandparents. So, what is the rush to be a parent? Hill Harper wrote that many young women are looking for love from guys or want a baby to love. But, careful life-planning and love for the unborn child should have them delay parenthood until conditions are better—never perfect but better.
Governmental resources are scarce and taxpayers are understandably ticked about entitlement spending. While some loved the general idea of an Obama presidency, I was crazy about Obama speaking to young people about being careful with life choices in a manner similar to the decision-making of President Barrack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Cosby, Hill Harper and countless others who could teach these life skills and back them with proven actions.
I say young people should study, work and have fun while they are maturing and please listen to older people around you—they have been where you are heading and you can learn from their personal histories.
The Audacity of Hope: Barrack Obama
p. 255 In other words, African American understand that culture matters but that culture is shaped by circumstance. We know that many in the inner city are trapped by their own self destructive behaviors but those behaviors are not innate. And because of that knowledge, the black community remains convinced that of America finds its will to do so, then circumstance for those trapped in the inner city can be changed, individuals attitudes among the poor will change in kind, and the damage can gradually be undone, if not for this generation then at least for the next.
Such wisdom might help us move beyond ideological bickering and serve as the basis of a renewed effort to tackle the problem of inner city poverty. We could begin by acknowledging that perhaps the single biggest thing we could do to reduce such poverty is to encourage teenage girls to finish high school and avoid having children out of wedlock. In this effort, school and community based programs that have a proven track record of reducing teen pregnancy need to be expanded, but parents, clergy and community leaders also need to speak out more consistently on this issue.
p. 245 Then there’s the collapse of the two-parent black household, a phenomenon that is occurring at such an alarming rate when compared to the rest of American society that what was once a difference in degree has become a difference in kind. A phenomenon that reflects casualness toward sex and child rearing among black men that renders black children more vulnerable – and for which there is simply no excuse.
p. 347 I didn’t have a prepared text, but I took as my theme “what it takes to be a full-growth man.” I suggested that it was time that men in general and black men in particular put away their excuses for not being there for their families. I reminded the men in the audience that being a father meant more than bearing a child; that even those of us who were physically present in the home are often emotionally absent; that precisely because many of us didn’t have fathers in the house we have to redouble our efforts to break the cycle; and that if we want to pass on high expectations to our children, we have to have higher expectations for ourselves.
My notes from the Cosby Book: Come On People
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