On Thursday, Dec. 19, I went to the town hall meeting organized by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) at Hyde Park Academy on 63rd and Stony Island. The purpose of the meeting was to bring forth solutions to the violence that is ongoing in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

The auditorium at the school was filled with lots of people. Onstage were two tables, the lineup of individuals who have been actively working to address the issue. The West Side was represented by activist Mark Carter out of North Lawndale, who has been at the forefront of the foreclosure housing crisis. Also onstage among the number of individuals were Reverends Marshall Hatch and Ira Acree.

After getting a brief introduction regarding all the panelists, Rev. Sharpton opened the floor for comments. The lines formed and numerous individuals stood prepared to give their comments. Sadly, not enough folks stood up to offer concrete solutions. We had the usual assortment of individuals who said, “I am so-and-so, the executive director of such-and-such.” And therein lies one of the problems. Folks, a town hall meeting is not the place to stand up and beg for money. Yes it is the time to tell how and why your program is succeeding in getting young people off the street, but it is not the time to beg for money. If your group is as successful as you profess, people and money will flow toward it. 

Another concern I had with the meeting was that far too many people in the audience were networking amongst themselves. Yes it is wonderful that so many people haven’t seen each other in a long time. But the meeting was called to meet and not to socialize.

I chose not to stand and speak. I simply wanted to sit and listen to what others had as ideas. I was most impressed with a young lady who at age 25 wanted to know where the instructions were for her generations to go forward. If you are young and want to make changes, don’t wait on the instructions. Do what the youth of my era did. Grab the torch and go forth because old people will never hand it to you.

 One of the people I wished had been there to speak on how to stop the violence is my friend, motivational speaker Michael Applegate. His latest book, Please STOP the Violence is a 10 action-step blueprint from A-Z for being a successful parent, positive individual, and phenomenal role model. His book is available online at www.michaelaapplegate.com.

I do have some ideas about stopping the violence, which I have shared in the past and will continue to highlight in the future. We must attack the situation from a variety of strategies that all pinpoint one single result: an end to random and reckless violence that has been plaguing our neighborhoods for decades. With conceal-carry now being law, our reckless young people must understand that there are real consequences to all behaviors. We must come out in record numbers to get involved in all aspects of our communities. 

No longer can watching television be the only activity one does. Our children need mentors, folks who are interested in listening to them and guiding them into adulthood. We need opportunities for our young people that are not limited to what they see on every corner. We need a prison system where the inmates are unwilling to welcome new folks in as a deterrent to crime. If going to the joint means you won’t be near any of your homies, then how willing will they be to go?

Lastly, as you see those young members of your family on Christmas Day, talk to them. Find out about their lives, their hopes and dreams. After listening to them, seek out resources for them. 

Let’s make 2014 a safe and violence-free year.

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