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The Center Of The Black Community

“I care enough about black young boys and girls that I have actually won Volunteer of the Year at the local Boys and Girls Club Teen Center here in Raleigh. Yea, by volunteering. I remember a teenage black girl, after seeing me in the center after several days, asking me why I was there. Before I could answer, she followed the question with a quick quip, ‘What you gotta do community service?’. When I told her that I was just there as a volunteer, she put a bewildered look on her face that struck home with me. Bill, the teen center manager, would soon tell me that volunteers at the center are few and far between. One day while signing in on the volunteer log, I noticed that only I had signed in as a volunteer for the past several weeks that the log displayed. This spoke directly to what Bill had told me.I know, I know. give me a hero cookie, right? The only reason I’m mentioning this is to qualify that I’m no hypocrite. BUT I SURELY DO HAVE A WAY OF VIEWING A LOT OF BLACK PEOPLE WHO CHIME IN ON THE TOPIC OF BLACK UNITY AS HYPOCRITES. What I find is that most of them will write something or take a position in conversations, like brothapeacemaker has, when the facts are that they themselves are all talk no action.”Regular Brotha

It’s wonderful that some people take time out of their busy lives to go and volunteer at the community center. There are a lot of black children who can benefit from such personal sacrifice for a few hours a week, a month, or whatever. More people should be so motivated. And after the few hours are done, the volunteer can go home knowing that they made a change in a child’s life or in children’s lives at least for a few hours. Such sacrifice can be its own reward, but it helps just a little bit more when you win something as noteworthy as the Volunteer of the Year recognition from the community center. Then again, if you’re the only volunteer showing up for weeks on end, you’re a shoe in for the award.

I have to confess that it has been years since I’ve volunteered my time in such ways. But one thing I must say in my defense is that while some are volunteering at the community center, I choose to live in the center of the black community. Being able to play games and entertain children for a few hours is nice. But living in the neighborhood with a number of underprivileged black children it can be considerably helpful to be one of the steadily dwindling number of black professionals in the black neighborhood, to be a neighborhood role model, rather than the weekend only role model.

Case in point, sometime ago a single black mother in the apartment next door decided she was going to go under her car and change her starter out herself. I have to give this woman some serious credit because I have difficulty trusting myself to change my oil correctly. I’ve done it a couple of times. But I have no confidence in my automotive mechanic skills and will stress myself out constantly worrying if I did it right. But this woman was under her car replacing her starter trying to save some money. The woman had two sons who were playing with other children in the alleyway. One looked about twelve, the other was walking and climbing but still in diapers. The younger started to climb a leaning chain linked fence. He climbed to the top and was doing his best to reach the tree just an adult’s arm length away. However, junior looked inevitably like he was going to fall. Mom was under the car working so I called out to the little boy’s older brother who was playing with some of the other kids his age.

Hey! Is that your brother climbing that fence?
Doesn’t he look like he might hurt himself?
My mom is right there.
She’s under the car and looks kind of busy. Why don’t you help her out by watching your little brother for her? I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.

The older brother took his little brother down and actually started looking out for him. Do I need a cookie? While it would be nice to have one right now, that’s not even close to being necessary. It’s not even necessary to get an award at the end of year. The fact that I can help teach a kid in my neighborhood about taking responsibility for caring for his little brother is just a little thing that helps make the black community a little better. Black people who chose to stay in the black community don’t get rewards for making the sacrifice to do what’s right for the black community. When we see the kids in our neighborhoods throwing rocks into a neighbor’s garage, looking for something to do because the nearest community center is about three miles away, we are there to stop them and make them realize that not only are they doing something wrong, but there are other people watching them.

They don’t give awards for people who sleep in the center of the black community at night, who wake up in the middle of sleeping to hear gunshots outside and press local politicians to take responsibility for cleaning up the community the way they promised when they were trying to be elected or trying to stay in office. However, I really don’t think that this type of strategy to help counter some of the social problems of the black community makes me a hypocrite. In fact, I suffer no doubt that I’m being hypocritical at all.

“This is why I care brothapeacemaker. While working in the teen center, there were some rough looking young men in there. I mean, to the common white person (and even some blacks) they looked like thugs. I’M FROM A CITY THAT IS 95% OR MORE BLACK. These were the bay-bays and shine dogs that I grew up with when I was a young kid. I saw the kid in these teens. After they get to know you a little, the tough shield starts to dissipate and what’s really there is a teenage kid that has hopes and dreams that are constantly being [challenged] by OUR culture.” – Regular Brotha

Glad to hear it. But, I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t just the neighborhood kids whose shields came down. I don’t even think they had a shield. I believe the author of this comment, Regular Brotha, was the one who dropped his shield. Once he spent a little time with the people he realized they aren’t as bad as our culture describes black people in general. This is the same man who claims that other black people are inspired “…to sport long white T’s as a fashion statements that influences them to stare me up and down while we’re in line at Wal-Mart ridiculing me in their minds because I’ve got on slacks and a dress shirt. They view me as sell-out. I got a damn mortgage. I gotta pay college tuition next year for my daughter. I’m doing what people died for, marched for during the 50’s and 60’s. And [you’re] looking down on me?” He also wrote, “I know what I see and I know what a mean mug is when I see it.”

This is the kind of thing that happens when we don’t bother to live amongst each other in a black community. Chances are good that if Mr. Brotha actually talked to those white T-shirt wearing brothers he would find out that they aren’t the thugs that he has been previously programmed to think they are. If Mr. Brotha got to know other black people he wouldn’t be so quick to judge them through the lens that the dominant community has defined black people to be. Without knowing any thing about other black people this black man reads other black people’s thoughts and can determine that all these other black people are ridiculing him. That sound like some pretty narcissistic paranoia.

When we take a moment to talk to each other we can learn who each other are and what each other are thinking and feeling. Like the girl in the original quote above we should have the gumption to talk to each other and ask questions instead of making propaganda fueled assumptions about how some black people hate other black people because they wear slacks. And when black people live in the center of the black community we can learn so much more about our other black brothers and sisters that no amount of propaganda can drive a wedge in between us. Black people should have an affiliation with each other, instead of just standing back and making asinine guesses as to who they are and what they are thinking. I can learn the conditions of the black community better when I live in the black community and not just by what I hear or read or learn through the filter of the dominant community. Volunteering at the community center for a few hours a week is really a good thing. But there is nothing better than black people actually living in the center of the black community if we are to rebuild the black community.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, Life, Philosophy, Thoughts | 11 Comments