Back in the day, African Americans weren’t given many opportunities to do anything. It took a while for us to get the chance to vote, to participate in wars as soldiers and fight for our country. African Americans also earned the privilege to use the same washroom as whites as well as attend the same schools. We also weren’t allowed to sit wherever we wanted on public transportation, but yet we had to pay the same money.

The opportunities that African Americans had to earn were given to other people. Privileges that should have just come naturally with being alive had to be earned by African Americans. The ability to be free had to be earned.

Now fast forward to present day. African Americans have the right to vote for whoever they want to as well as even run for an elected office. A prime example of this is that the United States of America is currently being run by an African-American man, President Barack Obama.

We have the opportunity to attend whatever schools that we want to. We also can use whatever bathroom, drink from whatever water fountain we choose as well as participate fully in fighting for our country.

All the blood, sweat and tears have finally paid off. We still aren’t where we want to be, but we aren’t anywhere near where we used to be. With all the hardships and struggles we’ve been through, it would seem only right that every opportunity we received we’d take advantage of. Right? Well we aren’t.

Our ancestors fought, cried and died so we could experience equality. Although slavery is over, we still find ourselves enslaved, whether we are behind bars or enslaved to the streets or our own ignorance or laziness.

As African-American people we are still fighting a battle that has been won for us over and over again. You would think that after all these things have become available to us we would be overwhelmed with joy and taking every opportunity that comes our way. Eh, not so much.

Living on the West Side of Chicago and hearing what is going on throughout Illinois, you can’t help but cry out for help. We cry out for help. We ask for safe havens, ask for recreational centers, boys and girls clubs and youth employment opportunities, among other things. We cry to the politicians and other elected officials for grants, programs, funds and support to help keep our youth active.

We get it and then what? We still make excuses. Is it the fact that we are ungrateful? Unappreciative? Too lazy? Or maybe we are unsure, uncertain or too enslaved to our own personal reasons to truly understand how far we’ve come, how much we’ve achieved, how much our ancestors had to struggle so we can be free.

I believe we ask for help and support but then see them as temporary fixes and don’t follow up on them. We don’t know how to cope with our problems, so we place the blame on other people or lack of resources.

We may place the blame for our behavior or attitudes on the community we live in, our environment, all the negativity that we see on the news, lack of recreational places and activities, when in reality we are set in our ways. We have no intention of changing.

So that is why, in my opinion, despite all the asking for help, resources and support, people will not change their ways until they are ready to change. Although positive programs help encourage and promote change, the fact that people ask for these resources, get them and still don’t change goes to prove the point that people will change when they are good and ready to change.

That urge to change may come from an incident or accident that may occur in your life, but it will only happen when you are ready for it to happen. Your mind controls your feelings, reactions, thoughts and determines how successful you’ll be and how far you’ll go.

Once you get your mind right, you can get your life right.

Joe Moore, 22, works for Fathers Who Care. He graduated from Proviso West High School and has wrapped up two years of community college.