Part 2 of 2
NBA legend Isiah Thomas had a message of peace Feb. 28 to youth on his native West Side. He joined Chicago-based CeaseFire at Fifth City Community Center, 3350 W. Jackson, speaking to young men from the West and South sides.

Continuing his talk to youth, he warned the boys not to believe the negative images they see of themselves in the media.

“I never had to go to school where the schools look like jail cells,” Thomas said. “How can you expect to educate your kids when they go to schools [that] look like a jail? Subliminally, what are you telling our kids? The stereotypes you see of men on television, don’t buy into that because that is not our culture. People died for you to become educated, people died for you to become successful, people didn’t die for you to kill each other. My message to you is love your brother. That is your African brother; find another way. You don’t have to kill him. I would not be standing here today if somebody didn’t say I’m going to give you a chance, I’m going to let you live. I’ve had guns put to my head. I’ve been shot at. I am lucky to be alive because somebody said I’m going to give you a chance or that bullet missed. Some of you in this room, that bullet hit and you’re still alive. Now what are you going to do with that opportunity?

“The message I am trying to send to you today is the one that I got when I was very young. Your blackness is about how educated you can become, what type of man you’re going to be. It ain’t about all this stuff they flash on television. Now I happen to know Jay Z, I know Diddy, I know all of them, and I remember when they were first coming up. How they dress, how they looked, how they talked. Then they made it. How do they look now, real different, right?

“Don’t you fall into the stereotype. Stay committed, stay strong. I know it gets really tough sometimes. I know it gets really hard because you want to eat. When you are hungry you will do wrong and justify your wrongness, I do understand that. These are hard times; these are times very similar to the ’70s and ’80s when interest rates and unemployment was real high for the American population. In your process of trying to feed your hunger, don’t kill your brother. Let your brother live; give him a chance.

“I remember my mother dreading the phone ringing, scared to death. She didn’t know if one was dead or one was going to jail. I am a father now and I look at my wife who is the mother of my son. I never thought, even though you live in a nice house, drive a nice car and have refrigerator full of food, that your son would be arrested, be in the system, be caught up. You can buy lawyers and everything else, but when you get arrested and they put the handcuffs on you and they book you, we all know that story. These are extremely dangerous times for you and your mothers are worried sick about you, so if you think you have it hard, imagine how your mother feels, the one who has got to take care of you. Before you pull that trigger, imagine how that other mother is going to feel who just lost her son – think about that.

“You know, CNN is seen all over the world, and the images of Chicago that they see of young black men forms an opinion in their mind of you all over the world. Let’s give them a better story to tell about young black men. The president of the United States is black, so you do have a chance, a legitimate chance. It is extremely hard, but you got a chance. If you can stay alive, you just might make it. I’m not talking as some basketball player. If you make that, great. God bless you.”