I’ve been thinking a lot about “making it”. “Making it” I guess means different things to different people. For the most part “making it” means to achieve a measure of success and prosperity in our culture. Where we live and work, particularly among young black males, “making it” means to live to an adult age without suffering incarceration, death or drug addiction. There are often young men who are lauded as having “made it” due to being offered a scholarship to a division 1 school to play sports or an opportunity to play professional sports. That’s good. We are all proud of the young person whose skill and self-discipline helps him get to that point, but we all acknowledge it is a one in a million shot. Young men with such opportunities are often recognized with “signing ceremonies” and such, but what about the other 999,999 youth? I am gratified to see schools that stage celebrations for their student populations who gain college admissions to various post-secondary programs, demonstrating that these are young people who are on their way to self-sufficiency and productivity.
Who are the real “urban heroes”? The guys who grind it out day by day, working against all odds and overcoming insurmountable obstacles to achieve success in life. The guys who really shine…who work hard, make good grades, progress on to college or trade school, or acquire good jobs. These are the unsung heroes. Their path is not glamorous or popular… but it is often dangerous and fraught with peril. They have to negotiate a path around drugs, crime and gangs; they are compelled to avoid incidental contact with police, and even the appearance of unruly behavior in school or in the community. The standards of acceptable behavior are set much higher for black males in our society as evidenced by the consequences they receive as compared to their white peers. It’s hard out there for a young black man trying to make his way in the world.
There are many young men who have grown up in this ministry and who are “making it” today. We are so proud of them. They are professionals and laborers and white-collar workers and yes, some are athletes. They have all beaten the odds. Young black men who have grown up in this neighborhood with all of the aforementioned pitfalls and achieved success through high school graduation, then college graduation or some other job training, and are now working good jobs. I want to give a shout out to our young men graduating and moving forward this year… Victory , TJ, and Jordan. I tell all the boys we work with: The most powerful thing a black man can do to help himself and effect change in this community and society as a whole is to grow to maturity and equip yourself to be a good husband, father or adult who can take care of himself and others. If you do that you are a raging success.
These are the guys who really shine and are worthy of celebration. These are the guys who lift up the hopes of a community. Because young boys see that “if they can do it, I can too”. And I’m not forgetting the ladies. We have several “sistahs doing it for themselves” out there, doing what they’re supposed to achieving success and change (we see you Joi and Keyvee!).
It takes so much effort for just one to make it. Those of us who have relatively stable lives cannot imagine the energy it takes to overcome, to endure day after day of trauma, incident after incident, moment after moment. It takes so much emotional, physical and spiritual effort. Thank God we have a source who is inexhaustible and irrepressible in showing His grace, love and goodwill towards us. Even our Lord Jesus Christ!