Recently I read an excellent column by “In These Times” senior editor, Salim Muwakkil titled, “Black Men: Missing,” (June 16). In his article, he wrote with the distress of how black men are virtually becoming extinct. In cities like Baltimore, New Orleans, Cleveland and Chicago there are 30 percent more black women than men. And the growing gender gap Salim states, “has enormous negative implications for the future of black America.” Without black men, who will father black women’s babies? Even artificial insemination will not work if black men are overwhelmingly in prisons, dead or in the military. It’s hard to “Keep Hope Alive” if black folks become extinct.

So I beg the question: “Are black churches and ministers also missing? Of course, there are many, many ministers and churches doing wonderful work. The problem is we don’t seem to know or hear enough about them. But ministers who are jealous of each other can be heard all over town, complaining.

There are some ministers who will never write or call any newspaper in town until that newspaper mentions a minister they dislike. But you can never get them to call or write about good news or those young people who are working hard to excel.

Too often churches in the black communities are closed during the week and only open on Sunday morning at collection plate time. My mother often used the term “Jack-Leg preacher.” This is a preacher who usually is self-appointed, knows three or four Bible verses and usually yells at the top of his voice to distract from all the words that make no sense in the context they are being used.

This type of minister hurts all the good ones. He pretends to be a community leader, when actually he’s an embarrassment and serves no useful purpose to society. A Jack-Leg preacher might as well be a gangbanger with a collar.

When Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim on Chicago’s West Side called for ministers to stand with him at the County Jail earlier this year, demanding that ministers be allowed to minister to prisoners, only a handful showed up. There are some 400 churches on the West Side alone, but Rev. Hatch could only depend on about 20-25 ministers. I’m sure the other 380 or so were somewhere ministering to the homeless, shut-ins, disabled, and sick?”or at the casino.

Can someone answer this question:

“Why are we still making a distinction between South Side and West Side here in Chicago?” If your brother lives on the South Side and your sister lives on the West Side, do you just stay home and not visit? If your church moves from the West Side to the South Side, do you leave?

Maybe you have to be a native Chicagoan to understand these differences. Since I come from Milwaukee, I always viewed Chicago as a happening, innovative town. Chicago is where the new dancers came from or those field trips to the museums. But after living here for over 40 years, it still boggles my mind about the differences between West and South sides.

When I see the clergy caught up in this nonsense, it is understandable how the people feel justified in continuing this myth. By the way, this separation is not only within the black community. Ask your white friends about growing up on the Southwest Side or the North Side. Oddly, you hear the same stories: Northsiders are more affluent and uppity; Southwestsiders are the working man’s friend.

Is it possible that ministers, priests and all clergy can help us all to Just get along?